Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Dogs in parks? Saanich to hire contractor for shared park-use strategy

Saanich council has taken another step towards balancing the interests of people and pets in its more than 170 parks. On Monday, council approved the terms of reference for hiring a contractor to develop a strategy for the shared use of its parks.
TC_327837_web_VKA-sunshine-0065-CMYK.jpg
Mount Douglas Park was one of three parks where Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes wanted to prohibit off-leash dogs. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Saanich council has taken another step towards balancing the interests of people and pets in its more than 170 parks.

On Monday, council approved the terms of reference for hiring a contractor to develop a strategy for the shared use of its parks.

The issue arose in May when council defeated a motion by Mayor Fred Haynes to prohibit off-leash dogs in Mount Douglas Park, Cuthbert Holmes Park and Panama Flats.

Council received more than 600 letters and an online petition gathered 660 signatures within 24 hours, all signed by people opposed to requiring dogs to be leashed in those parks.

“There is no doubt the issue has captured the imagination and the concerns of a wide range of our residents. That is a good thing because we want the input,” Haynes said at Monday’s special committee of the whole meeting.

Haynes said he believes the public is divided on the issue, noting the amazing level of correspondence he has received from both sides.

“Some people don’t go to parks because they are concerned about off-leash dogs,” he said.

The budget for the strategy, which will recommend changes to current policies and bylaws at parks and beaches, is $175,000.

The project is expected to start in January 2022. A public engagement session will be held between April and June, followed by a council check-in in September. A second publication engagement session will be held during the fall, with more public engagement in February-March 2023 and a final report to council in April-May 2023.

Councillor Zak De Vries said the neutral process is exactly what the community is looking for.

Councillor Judy Brownoff also supported hiring a contractor.

“I think this is the best way for us to move forward. There is no bias in these terms of reference… Out of the hands of council and into the hands of the consultant,” said Brownoff.

It’s important to recognize that more people acquired pets, dogs in particular, during the pandemic, Brownoff said.

“It’s important to recognize they are part of the family.”

Suzanne Samborski, director of parks, recreation and community services for Saanich, said the district is very liberal in its dog exemptions.

“Right now, Saanich is at a place where dogs are welcome off-leash in the majority of parks. There’s very fluid use,” said Samborski.

The project is not being rushed, said Haynes. The request for proposal will come up in five months and the consultants will have 18 months to do the work.

ldickson@timescolonist.com