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Issues

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The first issue iCare is addressing is Vancouver’s longstanding problem with irresponsible dog owners.

Recent quantitative research commissioned by the Park Board indicates that although only 15% of Vancouver citizens own dogs, a full 60% of those surveyed have experienced or witnessed problems with off-leash dogs. An overwhelming majority, 82% of Vancouverites, stated that they want off-leash bylaws enforced. This research study was conducted by a respected firm, Synovate, at a cost of $20,000 to taxpayers. 

Safety

Illegal off-leash offences are everywhere in the city, and Animal Control officials report that the worst areas for off-leash problems are in neighbourhoods where off-leash parks have been provided.

Many dog owners allow their dogs in children’s playgrounds that are clearly marked as banned from dogs and show little respect for the fears of children.

Animal Control reports that in 2006, there were over 100 dog-to-dog attacks in Vancouver. Law-abiding dog owners have had their dogs attacked by off-leash dogs, and blind people have reported being hampered by off-leash dogs interfering with guide dogs. (The Canada Safety Council estimates that out of the 460,000 dog bites to Canadians annually, 75% are to children under the age of 10.)

Animal control staff suffer from a high-burnout rate due to disrespect shown to them by some dog owners. (Source:  Animal Control)

Health

Many dog owners do not pick up after their dogs, or do not pick up 100% of their dog’s waste. Dog waste is left on sidewalks, playgrounds, parks, beaches and schools.

Dog feces can contain bacteria such as e. coli, viruses and parasites that cause minor illnesses such as diarrhea. Serious, long-term illnesses such as ringworm, tetanus, or toxocariasis can be the result of people coming in contact with dog feces. Although rare, toxocariasis is spread through eggs in feces 2 to 3 weeks after being deposited. As the parasite can last up to two years, contaminated soil and sand is often the carrier as the feces degrade.

Eye disorders are the most commonly reported complaint from this disease, and flu-like symptoms are another complaint. In England, a Dr. Gillespie noted about 100 cases each year, with 50 having serious eye damage. Nearly all were children.

Licensing

Less than 20% of Vancouver dogs are licensed. With an estimated 60,000 dogs in Vancouver, this represents a loss of approximately $1.6 million in funding per year, which is needed to fund Animal Control and help maintain parks and areas used by dogs. 

Park Management

Vancouver has more off-leash parks than any other municipality in the Lower Mainland — more than some cities that are geographically larger or have more park space.

Shared space for off-leash activity is incompatible with most other park uses and leads to more conflicts due to hours not being obeyed and dog feces being left on the ground.

Graves have been desecrated by feces in Mountainview Cemetery because of illegal off-leash activity there.





Solutions

What the City Needs To Do

To solve the current problems and restore harmony in our parks, iCare recommends the following actions on the part of the city of Vancouver.

  1. The city needs to increase Animal Control bylaw compliance

    Vancouver’s current dog licensing rate should be increased from the current less than 20% to Calgary’s 90%.

    The current 60% of Vancouver citizens who report having witnessed or experienced problems with off-leash dogs should be reduced to 10%.

    Ensure owners dispose of their dog’s waste in an environmentally sustainable way.

  2. It’s not rocket science – the city can increase bylaw compliance by enforcing Animal Control Bylaws

    Per Calgary’s successful campaign that Ian Robertson praises in an article in the Vancouver Courier:

    Ticket owners whose dogs are not licensed.

    Ticket owners who do not who do not pick up after their dog, or who do not leash their dog.

    Increase Animal Control Officers’ enforcement powers by providing Special Constable status. Animal Control Officers are currently only effective if accompanied by a police officer. This is because if a dog owner refuses to give their name to identify them to receive a ticket, the officer is powerless to do anything. Special Constable status would allow the officer to lay charges when this occurs. 

    If Animal Control is not able to step up to adequate enforcement, transfer enforcement responsibility to Engineering (they already issue parking tickets).

  3. And they can also increase compliance by Changing the Current Off-leash Program

    Vancouver’s current Off-Leash Program was build with input from a few, limited sources (Vandog, Animal Control and the SPCA).  Therefore, put a moratorium on the current program, and build a new off-leash program that:

    Represents and balances the needs of all community stakeholders, including the approximately 85% of Vancouverites who do not own dogs. 

    Incorporates best practices learned from successful off-leash programs (e.g. Calgary’s). 

    Contains comprehensive criteria that are consistently applied to the selection of Off-Leash Areas.

 

 

 


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