My wife and I have resided in Cadboro Bay since May, 1991. In that time one of the most significant changes has been the increase in the residential canine population. This is a trend that has been seen in many communities, not just ours. The impact of this change has been both positive and negative. A significant negative impact has occurred on our beaches. My wife and I stopped going to the beach many years ago as the canine population increased, with it some bad canine behaviour unchecked by their human owners. One evening we were surrounded by 2 Rottweiler dogs. That was it for us. We have not gone to the beach for many years. Even though we have not gone to the beach we are still impacted by the current situation as on any given day the noise of barking dogs can be heard, sometimes for many, many hours of the day.
There are many reasons for restricting canines from our beaches in Cadboro Bay. One reason is that our shoreline is within the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary which was established in 1923 and expanded to include the 6 harbours in the region in 1924. It seems to me that all levels of government have relinquished their responsibilities, real or perceived, to our pets and citizens who place little importance in our migratory birds. Then there are those who are simply not aware of the Sanctuary and of its importance. I believe that the majority of our residents fall into the latter category. I believe that the Sanctuary encompasses the entirety of Cadboro Bay up to the highest high tide line, and perhaps the foreshore. The Canadian Wildlife Agency has responsibility to manage the Sanctuary.
I have heard many stories from neighbours about unruly canines at the beach, and sometimes about their unruly owners, which surely are the minority. As I have not witnessed this first hand. Any information I provide will be anecdotal. Others have first hand experiences to share and I think that is best. However, I did hear of one incident recently that made me very concerned. Someone was assaulted by a canine owner. Did this happen? I don’t know for sure but it did, it should be a “line in the sand moment”. It is clear that the issue of canines at our beach is one that needs to be clearly resolved for all of the residents, not only of Cadboro Bay as our beaches are accessed by residents from all over the GVRD.
With regards to the options presented by the CBRA, Option 3, if you removed the May-September qualification, is the least objectionable. I would only vote for an option that required leashes for dogs 365 days a year, regardless of the time of day. Clearly the playground area should be off-limits to canines. People with canines should be able to use the walkways but canines should be leashed at all times. Migratory Birds use our bay all year round. Breeding season begins in March, or sooner. I’m not sure the May-September guideline took Migratory Birds into consideration. I believe that the time period was more tied to increase/decrease in use by residents rather than consideration for wildlife. Note: I knew some of the residents that battled to get the current guideline for canines at Cadboro Bay beach changed to what it is today. I sincerely believe they did so with good intentions. I believe times have changed and in turn, the guidelines need to change.
In conclusion, Cadboro Bay and the beaches are in a Bird Sanctuary established in 1923/24 that is managed by the Canadian Wildlife Agency. Canine owners need a place to walk their pets. Citizens with children need to feel safe at our beaches. All citizens need to feel safe at our beaches. The current situation does not provide a safe environment for any of us, or our wildlife. We have a responsibility to protect the environment for our current and future generations. What is currently happening is an abdication of responsibility at every level of government. Leadership at the local level of government is needed. I often hear politicians speak of Environmental Stewardship. Well, here is one issue that begs for stewardship, and leadership. It doesn’t get any more obvious than this issue.
Barry and Dana McKee