Citizens' group wants
action on dog survey
By Sandra Thomas-Staff
A West Side woman who
helped organize a citizens' group to tackle the
off-leash dog issue says the parks board is ignoring a
$20,000 survey commissioned in 2003 to look at the
city's off-leash dog program.
Celena Benndorf said the
survey shows 60 per cent of respondents want increased
enforcement of bylaws concerning dogs.
"The report was completed
by a very reputable firm," said Benndorf, who recently
saw a copy of the survey. "But the park board chose to
bury it and misrepresented the results."
The survey, compiled by
market research firm Synovate, says six out of 10
residents have seen or experienced problems with
off-leash dogs. "When it comes to future enforcement in
Vancouver City, when asked, residents want current
efforts, at a minimum, to be maintained and a
significant number want increased enforcement," the
report states. The results show residents want more
signs explaining off-leash rules and designated areas.
It also suggests residents who have been bothered by
off-leash dogs are convinced greater enforcement is
"If the survey found 60 per
cent of residents have had a problem or have seen
problems caused by off-leash dogs, that means 60 per
cent want to see increased enforcement," said Benndorf.
"According to the report only 15 per cent of the
residents of Vancouver own a dog, but they seem to be
the only ones the park board will listen to. What about
the other 85 per cent of us?"
Benndorf has worked at
Kraft Foods, Proctor & Gamble and Telus and
commissioned many market research surveys for them. She
said spending $20,000 on a survey and ignoring the
results was never an option for her.
Benndorf first contacted
the parks board and animal shelter about off-leash
problems almost 10 years ago after moving to Vancouver
from Toronto. She purchased a home near Kits Beach, but
increasingly found she could not enjoy her new
neighbourhood because she is allergic to dogs.
"Every time I go to the
beach someone's dog is running up to me," she said. "We
all chose to live in the city and with that comes some
responsibility, especially if you own a dog."
Inspired by Mayor Sam
Sullivan's campaign to reduce public disorder, Benndorf
and other residents recently formed I-CARE, or Informed
Citizens Advocating for Responsibility and Enforcement.
The group's mandate is to press for bylaw enforcement
and to encourage citizens to take personal
responsibility for their community. Off-leash dogs are
its first issue. Benndorf said the founders of the group
met after watching each other at parks board meetings in
recent years address the board about off-leash dogs.
"We could see that the dog
people were very organized and vocal, so we decided it
was time for the silent majority to speak up," she said.
Bill Manning, Queen
Elizabeth District parks manager of operations who
launched the city's off-leash program in 1998, denies
the survey was ignored.
"I guess the short answer
is the park board and city council are working together
very closely on this," said Manning. "These things take
time and maybe it's not moving ahead as quickly as some
members of the public and even some employees might like
to see it, but we are working on it. This month we
launched an increased enforcement and awareness
Bob Cristofoli, supervisor
of field operations with the Vancouver Animal Control
Shelter, is familiar with the survey. He said shelter
management has always supported extra enforcement.
"The more officers we have
out there, the more compliance we'll get," he said.
This month city bylaw
enforcement officers stepped up enforcement, targeting
irresponsible dog owners in public places like parks.
The increased enforcement marks the one-year anniversary
of changes to the city's animal control bylaw. The
changes were introduced to promote humane living
conditions for dogs, to encourage dog owners to make
sure their pets are in control in public, and to protect
people and pets from aggressive or unsafe dogs. Fines
for infractions, such as dogs running off leash,
increased from $25 to $250.
Cristofoli said so far this
month bylaw officers have written 15 tickets to owners
for infractions such as not licensing their dog or for
allowing it to run off-leash in non-designated areas.
"If an owner has two dogs
they've only been ticketing them for one," said
Cristofoli. "Two hundred and fifty bucks can hurt the
published on 11/22/2006