Comment: Victoria’s leash bylaw is unnecessarily onerous on dog owners

A retired Crown Counsel comment.

Victoria’s Mayor and City Council hit a fly with a sledgehammer. Mayor Lisa Helps may think the public has nothing to say other than that they don’t like it. Well, I don’t like it and I have something to say.

In their rush to enact the new regulation for unleashed dogs, they failed to take into account the absence of migratory birds in Gonzales Bay for much of the year.

I have lived near the bay for eight years and can attest that there are no migratory birds for most of the year. As for the great blue heron, I have only ever seen one in the bay – one – who visits the bay during the day, and it is territorial and does not allow intruders of their own kind. If a heron approaches the bay to visit, it screeches and flutters and the intruder is chased away.

Most of the time, our resident heron stands on the kelp beds and reefs in the bay.

I compare this situation with a traffic zone in which motorists see the sign “Reduce speed if children see on the street”, or a school zone with signs “30 km / h, 8 am-5pm, school days”. Children are only at risk from drivers if the children are actually present; The rest of the time, drivers can drive at the usual standard speed.

Not only has the Council exaggerated in its efforts to accommodate opponents of unleashed dogs, but it has also arrogantly neglected to consider and consult dog owners.

It could easily have enacted bylaws that read, “Dog owners must leash their dogs when migratory birds are present in Gonzales Bay,” thereby finding a reasonable compromise between dog owners and the interests protected by federal law.

There is no contradiction between this proposed community ordinance and federal law because if there are no migratory birds in the bay, which is the case for most of the year, the matter is contentious.

Accordingly, I urge the city council to amend the statute with the same zeal with which it passed the “no dogs off the leash” statute, and otherwise exercise discretion in enforcing it when migratory birds are not present.

After all, compromising (without violating federal law) is the fair Canadian way of doing things as it takes into account the various interests involved.

I should add that for many people during COVID, dogs have been a boon and mental health tonic; Dogs have kept company and exercise outdoors during the difficult period of enforced isolation.

I’ve heard a lot of people say how thankful they are for their dogs. Lots of people have bought dogs, and puppies abound.

Like children, dogs need unstructured time to play, run, and explore in a safe environment. Pemberton Park is not safe as it is not completely enclosed. I know several dogs that have run away to hunt deer.

Dallas Road is fine for some dogs, but I know at least one dog who was tragically run over after jumping over the fence to explore the north side of the road. Gonzales Bay is great for humans and dogs, and I’m sure most of us will be happy to have sensible regulation when the migratory birds are around.

The question also arises as to whether the municipality is even responsible for legislation on the intertidal zone. In Gonzales Bay, this covers the entire beach in sand as the tide hits the wall and rocks in winter. This would be an interesting argument in court from someone who has a ticket under the new statutes.

© Copyright Times Colonist