The City of Saanich, B.C., has moved one step closer to banning the use of retractable leashes.
In a vote passed Monday, council directed staff to update the city’s animal bylaws to ban the use of those leashes within the municipality.
The vote passed eight to one, with Mayor Dean Murdock being the only holdout.
“So council was going through three readings of a bylaw that would have set the context for where people can exercise with their dogs in our parks on leash and off leash,” he said.
“And one of the changes that was introduced as part of the second reading of the bylaw was the removal of retractable leashes as something that people can use with their dogs.”
Murdock said it wasn’t something he personally supported.
“Council decided to go in a direction that would mean in our parks you’re going to need to use a two-metre leash with your dog,” he added.
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Resident Pam Fowles told Global News she is in favour of the ban.
“I love dogs. I love them,” she said. “I don’t mind that they’re off-leash, but I never think they’re in control if they’re on a flexi lead. That’s just my thoughts.”
Brian Forsyth told Global News that while he doesn’t use a retractable leash for his dog, he doesn’t agree with banning them.
“I think that the dogs should have a little bit of leeway,” he said. “But you’ve got to be careful that they don’t run out on the road or, you know, extend too far. You’ve got to be in control.”
Forsyth added that while he doesn’t agree that it’s necessary, it does depend on the dogs and the owner’s ability to control them.
Sandy Savage often walks her dog in the off-leash areas and doesn’t use a retractable leash but she said they can be problematic.
“I recognize that when people have their dogs on retractable leashes, if they go around the back of you, they can cut your leg or trip you,” she said.
“So I’m not really a great fan of retractable leashes, but I recognize that especially for small dogs, it’s not a bad option in the right circumstances.”
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However, not everyone is on board with the proposed changes.
Eulala Mills, president of CRD Dogg Owners and Friends for Good Governance Society, CRD Doggs, and CRDdoggsociety.ca, said the motion was introduced with no public consultation, which she said has been a problem from the beginning.
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“Most of this has been about anecdotes and no evidence,” she said. “And so they got pressured to make a change and introduced it without doing any research or any public consultation on it.”
Mills said they have been asking council to use evidence-based research and fact to make these decisions but said council has also been voting to take away off-leash dog areas in the city.
“Take it away,” she said. “Go back to the original wording. And if you think it needs to be changed, do the research to find out why and what needs to be different.”
Mills does not agree that retractable leashes are a safety hazard and said they can be a good training tool.
She thinks people will be expressing their concerns about this proposed bylaw to council.
“They added this without public consultation and it will become law in a week with no public consultation,” she said.
“There isn’t an avenue for us to do anything but write to council because there is no more public consultation.”
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One of the challenges will be enforcement, Murdock said, as there are only a limited number of bylaw officers.
“We did the three readings on Monday night,” he said.
“Final reading will be this coming Monday, which then puts the bylaw in place. Staff will come back with an implementation plan that outlines all of the changes that need to happen — signage and fencing, education, all of those things.”
Murdock added that council has also asked for a monitoring package as part of the changes.
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