UXBRIDGE: In an attempt to rein in recent complaints, councillors are considering tougher penalties for those who allow their dogs to roam off-leash in local parks.
The matter was brought before council at their meeting on the morning of Monday, Aug. 10, after an e-mail complaint was received by Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor regarding off-leash dogs on the Countryside Preserve Trail.
“It seems quite unfair that those of us who respect the rules are being kept from enjoying this wonderful treasure by those who ignore them. Uxbridge refers to itself as the Trail Capital of Canada, but visitors will certainly not be welcome by having to avoid the many disrespectful dog walkers,” the e-mail read, in which the writer, who requested not to be identified, also noted that he no longer uses the popular trail “for fear of unwelcome encounters with unleashed pets.
There were suggestions from around the council bench regarding possible solutions for the issue.
Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy asked about the possibility of having “by-law staff monitor the park and maybe show some more enforcement. While Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger requested a comprehensive review of what is currently in place for municipal signage.
It was noted by Township Clerk Debbie Leroux that off-leash dogs are “a constant complaint” for the municipality. Ms. Leroux also explained that dogs fall under the jurisdiction of Animal Control, while the local By-Law Department is responsible for enforcement at local parks.
“Staff can’t be there all the time, and many of these incidents happen either early in the morning, or in the evening, when people are out for a walk after supper,” added Ms. Leroux. “We do have signage, and it’s on our web site as well, but unfortunately some people are just so rude when it comes to animals. Short of banning dogs from the park, I’m not sure what we can do.”
Mayor O’Connor expressed her dismay with the ongoing issue in local parks and trails, citing a lack of respect from some local dog owners for other park users.
“I don’t understand dog owners who don’t understand that there are people who are afraid of dogs. There are people who think that their dogs are nice, and maybe they aren’t as nice as they think they are. I really resent that we even have to discuss this,” commented Mayor O’Connor.
Ultimately, a staff report was requested for the Monday, Sept. 14 council meeting, which will include all of the fines currently in place for animal-related by-law infractions. As well, Mayor O’Connor suggested that the municipality may have to look at fees with more bite in offenders’ bank accounts in order to eventually neuter the situation.
“Maybe what we need to do is put (fines) at a fee that’s going to hurt,” added Mayor O’Connor. “Again, I really resent that we’re even having to discuss this. But unfortunately, it’s not the animal, it’s the owner of the animal.”