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Debate over off-leash dogs reaches Vernon council

Dozens of people filled Vernon council chambers for a presentation on dog leashes, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019.
January 21, 2019 - 2:41 PM

VERNON - Dogs and their owners just want to roam free, but on-leash restrictions limit these aspirations. One Vernonite is tired of the leash restrictions at a local park and she took her cause to city council today.

Dozens of people filled Vernon Council chambers to the brim today, Jan. 21, to watch Darlene Hainer's presentation about the on-leash area of Marshall Field. Hainer asked council to change a bylaw to allow dogs off leash in the area.

Hainer, a dog owner, said she's used the field for years. She says dogs need to be off-leash to get the most out of their exercise and to socialize with other dogs and people.

"Putting dogs on-leash changes the whole dynamic," she said.

In a petition with dozens of signatures submitted to council, Hainer said animal control workers have visited Marshall Field multiple times in the past few weeks to enforce the on-leash bylaw, which is designed to keep dogs away from the nearby playing fields. Hainer said the signage for this bylaw is inadequate in the area.

Hainer asked council to alter the bylaw to allow dogs to be off-leash on the creek trail at Marshall Field, noting that most dog owners are responsible and they should not be punished due to a few bad actors. Her speech received sustained applause from the crowd gathered in the chambers.

Councillors, who were quick to note they were dog owners, sounded off on Hainer's proposal. Coun. Brian Quiring agreed with Hainer's motion, while Coun. Akbal Mund raised concerns about dog feces filling the playing fields if the animals are left unattended.

"There's got to be a system for those irresponsible dog owners," he said. "Maybe higher fines."

Coun. Kari Gares noted she is a parent and a dog owner, and said it wouldn't be fair for kids playing in the fields to have to dodge free-roaming dogs. She also said most dog owners are responsible, stating the minority of them are careless with their pets.

"It's important we look at how it will impact the whole [community]," Gares said.

Quiring asked council to vote on Hainer's motion to alter the bylaw, but Mund said the council needed a report on the impact of the possible change before council should vote. The other members agreed with him.

Council will return in two weeks to receive the report.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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