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Dog task force tough sledding
Facilitator brought in to help find common ground
Sandra Thomas
Vancouver Courier

A leashed dog and its owner take a stroll in Jericho Park on a beautiful fall day, oblivious to the acrimony that has surrounded the debate around dogs in city parks.
CREDIT: Photo-Dan Toulgoet
A leashed dog and its owner take a stroll in Jericho Park on a beautiful fall day, oblivious to the acrimony that has surrounded the debate around dogs in city parks.

Vancouver's often bitter divide separating dog owners and non-dog owners seems to have spilled onto a dog strategy task force formed by the parks board last spring.

The task force was created in May 2006 as yet another attempt by parks staff and the board to find solutions to the often-adversarial problem of dogs in the city, particularly in parks and open spaces.

Included on the task force are citizens representing parks and leisure, children and families, pets, the environment, business and community relations.

According to a staff report that goes to the board Monday, soon after three public forums were held last December, "it became apparent that the task force had difficulty agreeing on what was heard and then finding common ground to allow them to move forward toward a draft strategy."

Parks board chair Ian Robertson, who proposed the task force last year, said the division indicates how contentious dogs in the city can be.

"But it depends on who you talk to," said Robertson. "I spoke with one member and he tells me they're coming up with some pretty good recommendations."

The staff report notes a facilitator was brought in to assist the group and that differing views among task force members have prevented consensus. Task force members have split on issues including how many off-leash areas should be provided and if they should be provided in new communities; the criteria for the selection of off-leash sites; which areas or parks should be dog free; if and to what extent off-leash areas should be modified, how the modifications will be paid for and how off-leash areas will be managed.

Several other tasks assigned to the group by the board have yet to be dealt with, including providing recommendations based on public consultation for Stanley, Devonian Harbour and Creekside parks and a recommendation on a proposal to extend the off-leash hours at Crab Park at Portside to all day.

Some progress has been made. The group has interviewed key representatives of the city and parks board who are involved with police, dog licensing, animal control, cemetery and parks maintenance. It reviewed the off-leash program and surveys on public reaction to both it and licensing enforcement around the city, held three public forums and researched how other cities in B.C., across Canada, the U.S. and Europe handle dog management problems.

"This is an opportunity to look at what other communities are doing and follow their best practices," said Robertson. "For example Calgary has a really good program so the task force is looking at what they're doing and what we're not doing. Vancouver has a low compliance rate when it comes to licensing, but Calgary has something like 90 per cent compliance."

Robertson said the parks board has been kept at arms length from the task force to keep politics away from its members.

"So I'm reserving judgment until they're finished their work," he said.

© Vancouver Courier 2007


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