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Off-Leash Areas and Animal Control Bylaws


Background:

We have known for some time that there are some off-leash dog owners who feel strongly that the increasing number of flower beds and the presence of structures in the areas designated as "off-leash" are infringing on the rights of off-leash dog owners.

In response to their concerns and for several other reasons, the Gardens group, in a plan submitted last January to the Community Centre and to City Parks, decided that:

our efforts would be dedicated to completing work that was already approved in the 2014 Work Plan and to maintaining and improving already existing areas.

We will not be developing any new flower beds and building any new structures in the area without approval of the Community Association and the City Parks Department.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2014, three Gardens Board members met with six off-leash dog owners, a City Parks representative, Silver Springs Community Association President Jeremy Gukert and two other community members. At this meeting, a number of issues were raised by the off-leash people that were not directly responded to by the Gardens group for various reasons.

These issues, in our opinion, are based on a number of misconceptions about off-leash dog areas. that we would like to comment on by referring to specific City of Calgary documents that relate to the matter.

 

 Misconception # 1:


The designated off-leash area has been set aside especially for of-leash dog owners and they have special rights that supersede the rights of other users of the area.

   What the bylaws say about this:  


The Birthplace Forest and Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs are located in a City of Calgary park and are officially designated as off-leash areas.

As such, they are governed by

Bylaw Number 23M2006 Being A Bylaw of the City of Calgary Respecting the Regulation, Licensing and Control of Animals in the City of Calgary

We invite you to read the entire Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw in detail by visiting the following website: 

http://www.calgary.ca/CA/city-clerks/Documents/Legislative-services/Bylaws/23M2006-ResponsiblePetOwnership.pdf

On Page 3 of this document, the Bylaw defines a "Park" as meaning:

"a public space controlled by The City and set aside as a park to be used by the public for rest, recreation, exercise, pleasure, amusement, and enjoyment."

This to us emphasizes that parks are for people first and foremost.

And indeed, the Gardens and Birthplace Forest are used well by the public for the above listed purposes. On any given day, there are numerous individuals and couples, and organized walking groups ranging from five to fifty individuals visiting our site. We have been visited by large groups of retired teachers, City workers and Horticultural Society members – to name just a few.

School groups are also using the Gardens for field trips. For two years running now, one school, as part of their annual Volunteer Day, has sent classes out to work in areas of the Birthplace Forest for us.

We are noticing increased numbers of seniors and very young children who regularly come with their families to enjoy the beauty of the flowers and the forest and to visit the trees planted for them as part of the Birthplace Forest project.

            We welcome this and do not apologize for the increased traffic in the area.

There have also been many amateur and professional photographers who have spent many pleasurable hours capturing images of the radiant and overflowing flower beds. Many have written Blogs sharing their positive experiences.

The bottom line is that the Botanical Gardens and the Birthplace Forest are multi-use people places “used by the public for rest, recreation, exercise, pleasure, amusement, and enjoyment.”

They are not a prioritized domain of off-leash dog walkers. More on this below.

 Misconception # 2

Off-leash dog walkers have a special right to be in the area and people who visit the off-leash area should not be surprised or offended if dogs approach them or jump at them.

       What the bylaws say about this:

 
As stated above, parks are multi-use areas. One of those uses does indeed involve letting dogs off-leash - if they are under control and if dog walkers pick up after their pets.

However, it would be incorrect to insist that off-leash dog owners have a special right to be there.

On page 6 (see below) of the City of Calgary's  Off-Leash Area Management Plan, it is clear that having dogs off-leash is a privilege - not a right - which comes with strict responsibilities "including, but not limited to picking up after dogs and controlling dogs at all times."

The second bullet (see below) emphasizes that "The interests of a variety of stakeholders must be considered.
"

And the fourth bullet is unequivocal in stating that off-leash opportunities hold no precedence over the rights of other users in terms of safety.

In other words, people with or without dogs, have the right to walk the area without the fear of being run at or jumped on by dogs who are not under the direct control of their owners.

 

core principles.JPG

Off-Leash Area Management Plan (page 6)

 
Misconception # 3

Dog walkers are allowed in off-leash areas to let their dogs be dogs. They should be allowed to run "amok" because that is what some dogs do and off-leash areas are there for them to do that.
       What the bylaws say about this:

 
Preamble:

Most of the Gardens volunteers are dog owners.

We love responsible dog walkers and we have excellent relations with the vast majority of them.

Many stop and talk to us as we work and they express their appreciation of the fact that we provide bags for dog walkers to use to pick after their pets. On average, walkers avail themselves of 150 bags per week - more in the summer months. They are also grateful for the water fountain we installed for people and their pets. The cost of this water fountain was split between local resident dog owners and our own garden group.

As such, we absolutely share the sentiment that dogs need a space where they can run free and be dogs.

Unfortunately, the City puts limits on what off-leash dogs can do and this is a good thing for the general public who also have a right to use the area for "rest, recreation, exercise, pleasure, amusement, and enjoyment" and feel safe at the same time.

Regardless of “signage,” walkers are NOT allowed to let their dogs “run amok” anywhere!

Furthermore, the bylaw is very clear that dogs must be in control at all times.

Here is what the bylaw states about what entails a dog being not “under control” and what the consequences are:

cid:image002.jpg@01CF6548.EF393C30

 

Clearly, for safety reasons, the bylaws and common courtesy do not allow walkers to let their dogs "run amok."

 

In conclusion:

We acknowledge and are grateful for the kind comments that many dog walkers have made regarding how wonderful the Gardens are and how much the area has enriched their experience of spending time in natural environments.

We are not in any way wanting to change the off-leash designation of the area but we would like all stakeholders - dog walkers and non dog walkers - to acknowledge that this multi-use area is:
 

"a public space controlled by The City and set aside as a park to be used by the public for rest, recreation, exercise, pleasure, amusement, and enjoyment."

 In formulating our yearly plans, we more than welcome community involvement. This is a multi-use area with many different stakeholders and we are open to involving as many different voices as possible.

There are literally over a thousand people visiting the area every week during the prime growing season. Not all are dog walkers. We would even venture to guess that most visitors are just people and groups walking and jogging and bike riding and photographing and smelling the roses and checking on their Birthplace Forest tree and … you get the picture.

All stakeholders are welcome and entitled to make suggestions, offer advice, express thanks and of course level criticism. There are and will be many opportunities for stakeholders to do so.

Please check the Silver Springs Spirit monthly magazine for dates and details about such opportunities.

 

We welcome your comments, suggestions, criticism and support.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at:

info@botanicalgardensofsilversprings.ca