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Dueling Vernon petitions debate dog leash bylaw

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January 30, 2019 - 5:00 PM

VERNON - Vernon dog owners had their say about an off-leash bylaw and now soccer players, parents and facility workers want to voice their opinions on the matter, highlighting an ongoing debate about where dogs should roam free.

Darlene Hainer brought a petition with dozens of signatures to a Vernon city council meeting last week, asking the members to change a bylaw to allow for an off-leash area for dogs at Marshall Fields. But the North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association, which plays on Marshall Fields, is opposed to letting dogs off-leash in the area and they've started a petition of their own.

Marina Korberg, executive director for the soccer association, said they started the petition last Friday (Jan. 25) after they heard about the council meeting. They're spreading the word to parents and community members to sign their petition, which they plan to present at a council meeting on Feb. 25.

Many dog walkers take their pets through a trail that runs parallel to Marshall Field. According to Korberg, despite the signs stating dogs must be on leashes, she sees many canines storming the field every day. She's concerned a bylaw permitting no leashes will increase this problem.

"There are very few dogs on-leash as it is," she said.

Korberg said dogs defecate on the fields and many owners fail to clean up after their pets, creating a minefield of feces. At the council meeting, Hainer noted some dog owners are irresponsible, but she said the majority of dog walkers shouldn't be punished because of the minority's bad behaviour.

Hainer's petition recommends turning the trail near Marshall Field into an off-leash area. Korberg said there is no fence between the trail and the field. She said she's seen off-leash dogs dash from the trail to the field, often interfering with soccer games, and she's concerned these incidents will grow without a leash bylaw.

Instead of changing the bylaw, Korberg thinks a fence between the trail and the field could be a happy compromise, as it would stop dogs from rushing the play area while allowing them to roam freely.

"We really need to have a discussion about fencing," she said. "Nobody wants to be running through dog poop or risk their kid getting bit by a dog."

Vernon council agrees, which is why they've requested a report looking into the cost and effectiveness of a fence along the trail. They'll receive and discuss the report at their Feb. 11 meeting.

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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