Support for Dog Bylaw Review

Dear CBRA Board,

I have been reading a lot of the commentary in the media concerning the dog use of Cadboro Bay. I find a lot of the discourse to be emotional, inflammatory and distracting from the facts and the crux of the issue. Thus, I would like to provide what I feel is a balanced and objective perspective.

I will preface my comments by saying that I have no bias in favour of or against dogs and dog owners. I believe that pet owners have the right to be able to walk and enjoy certain outdoor areas of a community, within reason. However, I am reminded of the axiom “the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” Or said another way, the right of dog owners to partake in an activity should end at the inflection point, where the positive attributes of their activity begin to be dwarfed by the negative impact on other constituents in the community.

I would like to set out a couple of key facts.

  • Key Fact #1. The unique off-leash dog bylaws on Cadboro Bay beach are anomalous as compared to other sandy beaches in Victoria area. This inevitably attracts a heightened and concentrated level of dog walking activity, particularly during the summer months, and the problems that come with this activity. I don’t doubt that dog owners are thrilled that they have a beach where they can let their dogs run untethered all year around. It is indeed a beautiful picturesque sandy beach. What is not to like about that? I am sure it brings a lot of enjoyment to dogs and dog owners. However, as with many activities, with the good, also comes the bad (e.g. dogs chasing wildlife, dogs damaging beachfront vegetation, untrained dogs barking incessantly, dogs creating conflicts with other dogs and other beachgoers, dogs trespassing on homeowner properties and dog owners not removing dog feces). And since the level of dog walking activity is high on Cadboro Bay Beach (given its unique permissibility), the negative impact and incidences are more prevalent and magnified.
  • Key Fact #2. Although I have not conducted a scientific tally, as a homeowner who has lived in a home fronting the beach for the last 5 years, and thus sees the full breadth of dog activity over the course of a day, I would estimate that 80-85% of dog owners are responsible and considerate and their use of the beach appears to have a modest impact. However, I can also attest to the fact that the negative instances of dog activity (as mentioned above) occur numerous times a day. Not once in a blue moon, as some would have you believe, but numerous times each day.

It appears that the level of unleashed dog activity on Cadboro Beach (as a result of the bylaws which are inconsistent with other neighbouring municipalities) appears to have reached beyond the inflection point where the negative impacts on other community members, wildlife and the environment (bear in mind, the latter two constituents are not able to voice an opinion on the matter) trump the rights and benefits of the dog walkers and the dogs who utilize the beach on an unleashed basis.

I will close by saying that it seems very odd that in a city the size of Victoria, that various neighbourhoods and communities would have vastly different bylaws regarding dog walking activity. And when you overlay the fact that Cadboro Bay Beach is a protected migratory bird sanctuary, and one of the few sandy beaches that is accessible for the public to enjoy, that it would also be the only beach where off-leash dog walking is permitted. Lastly, I hope that Saanich Council will give short shrift to those who argue that current bylaws should persist because they have been this way for “x” number of years. It should go without saying that laws and rules are meant to evolve in lockstep with society. The list is long of laws and rules from history that are no longer relevant or appropriate, or have produced unintended consequences that result in a net negative impact to society.

Suffice to say, it is a healthy and beneficial exercise to review certain bylaws periodically and ascertain whether they are still serving a net positive purpose for the community, or conversely, whether they need to be modified to better reflect the needs and interests of society at a given point in time. Thus, I fully support Saanich Council’s motion to review the current bylaws regarding dogs on Cadboro Bay Beach.

Aaron Papps
Cadboro Bay Road

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