2,400 warnings, 55 tickets: Is Vancouver's animal control all bark and no bite?
Published Wednesday, March 1, 2017 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 1, 2017 10:15AM PST
Dog owners are expecting greater access to Vancouver’s parks with proposed changes expected to be announced this spring by the park board. But with those changes also comes responsibility. That means respecting the rules.
However, if you use any of Vancouver’s parks you are likely to encounter dog owners who pick and choose what rules apply to them.
During a recent walk along Vancouver’s Sunset Beach, I noticed several dog owners out on the beach, dogs off leash and running and playing in the sand. So what’s wrong with that? Posted all along that section of beach were several signs stating, “No dogs permitted on beach.” Not only are they not allowed, all dogs must be on a leash in public places unless they are in a designated off leash area.
One woman walked right past the sign, dog off leash and as she went by I asked, “Did you see the sign?”
“I don’t really like that though,” she replied. “You don’t like that rule? It doesn’t apply to you?” I responded.
At that point she became agitated that I was recording our exchange.
However, there were several others doing the same thing. It happens every day and dozens of dog owners can be found doing the same thing.
“You know there are signs here?” I asked another man who had his dog off leash on the beach.
“Yeah, there’s always dogs running through here, though,” he replied.
Vancouver’s Animal Control sees this type of behaviour all the time.
"It's up to every dog owner to be responsible for their actions," said acting manager John Gray.
His department will be in charge of enforcing any new rules for Vancouver’s parks which may include opening up more off leash areas, adding fewer restrictions on hours and perhaps restricting dog use in other sensitive areas, like Sunset Beach. But what’s the point if no one is enforcing the by-laws?
Over the last two years Vancouver’s Animal Control issued more than 2,400 warnings to dog owners found violating the rules and issued only 55 tickets.
"I think we're looking at trying to give people the opportunity to do the right thing," said Gray.
“You look around. Who are you bugging?” asked Shawn, another dog owner I encountered with two dogs off leash on the beach.
About 100 yards away under the Burrard Bridge is the off leash area. However, few people were using it.
"Dark, not very welcoming to tell you the truth - it's a lot nicer in the other areas," said dog owner Vensa Lisac.
She made a good point. Big rocks on beach in the off leash area make is less inviting and difficult to walk and it was cool and dark in the shade.
I met up with Vensa with her dog Benny in a section of the beach between the “No dogs permitted on beach” sign and the boat dock separating the off leash area. She was new to the area and didn’t see signs.
She wondered if better signage might help but further down that stretch of beach there were four signs, all within yards of each other, and yet many dog owners either didn’t notice them or didn’t care as their dogs ran freely on the beach.
“We can't put a dog enforcement officer in every park every day for every hour of the day. We need to be there to bring things in check when things need to happen and I think that's where we need to find common ground," Gray said.
Vancouver’s Animal Control has 11 officers to enforce the rules and their first priority is dealing with aggressive dogs. They get about 250 dog bite complaints every year.
Right now, the policy is to educate owners about how to respect the parks and the rules so that everyone can share and enjoy them. But if barking at them doesn’t work then we’re told a second time they’ll feel the bite and get a ticket.