Off-Leash Areas and Animal Control
We have known for some time that
there are some off-leash dog owners
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
efforts would be dedicated to completing work that was
already approved in the 2014 Work Plan and to maintaining and improving already
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.
The designated off-leash area has been set aside especially for
owners and they have special rights that supersede the rights of
other users of the area.
What the bylaws say about
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:
On Page 3 of this document, the Bylaw defines a "Park" as
"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
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.
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.
of the City of
Off-Leash Area Management Plan,
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
Off-Leash Area Management Plan (page
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.
the bylaws say about this:
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
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
Clearly, for safety reasons, the
bylaws and common courtesy do not allow walkers to let their dogs
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
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."
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
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: