Saanich asks for feedback on Cadboro Bay dog-leash options

Saanich residents are being asked for their feedback on three proposals for reducing human-dog conflict at popular Cadboro Bay Beach.

The options are outlined in a report released Monday by the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association, in response to Coun. Karen Harper’s controversial Jan. 27 recommendation that the municipality limit off-leash use of the eastern portion of Cadboro Bay’s shoreline.

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Dogs are currently permitted on the east beach without leashes year round. From May 1 to Aug. 31, dogs are prohibited from being on the central and west beaches and on paths and parkways after 9 a.m.

Dogs are also prohibited in the playground after 9 a.m. and must be leashed within 10 metres of the playground outside of restricted times.

The first option outlined by the association maintains the status quo regarding leash restrictions, but permits dogs to be on leash year-round on paths and parkways.

Option two calls for leashing on the east and west beaches from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dogs would be prohibited on the central beach at all times, although leashed dogs could be walked across the beach below the outfall marker at lower tides. Dogs would be prohibited at all times on the playground, but would be permitted to be on-leash on paths and parkways.

Option three proposes that dogs must be leashed on the east beach and west beach at all times.

Dogs would be prohibited on the central beach at all times, although leashed dogs could be walked across the beach below the outfall marker at lower tides. Dogs would be prohibited at all times on the playground, but would be permitted on-leash on paths and parkways.

For the next three weeks, Saanich residents can provide feedback on the three options through an online survey at cadborobay.net. Paper surveys will be available at the association’s information kiosks in the park. Submissions must be completed by July 6.

After public input is received, the association will send a report to Saanich council identifying which option has the most support. It will also send its recommendations to council.

It’s anticipated that the final report will be posted on the association’s website by July 31.

In response to Harper’s initial request, council received more than 400 emails. There was standing room only at a Feb. 24 Saanich council meeting where the topic was raised.

On March 2, council agreed to postpone discussion until mid-July to allow the Cadboro Bay Residents Association time to conduct community consultation.

A beach committee was created to do research. Members of the committee spent 115 hours at the beach, observing the behaviour of dogs and their owners, counting people and dogs, timing barking and looking for missed feces on the foreshore and backshore areas.

During their research, committee members were advised by professional biologists that there is no bio-physical or environmental reasons to preclude dogs from Cadboro Bay Beach and park. “This matter is strictly a social issue,” said the report.

Over the years, much of the natural vegetation close to the beach has been destroyed. Lagoon marshes have been filled in and concrete retaining walls erected.

In the context of overall human impact, including walking, boating, water sports and noisy construction, dogs have a “relatively indiscernible role,” the report said.

The committee found that 85 per cent of Saanich residents who made submissions to council supported current dog restrictions. Of those, 67 per cent stressed that being able to play or walk with their dogs on Cadboro Bay Beach was very important to them and their families.

The report found a stable core group of beach users with dogs. At the most popular times, the number of people increases dramatically, but the number of dogs tends to remain flat.

The report also addresses the problem of not allowing leashed dogs on paths and parkways from May 1 to Aug. 31, which makes it difficult for those with dogs to walk from the east beach to Cadboro Bay Road and village or to the parking lot and washrooms.

“Many people feel they are forced to break rules to access the beach, or alternatively, they have to walk down busy Cadboro Bay Road, cross the bend where cars drive by quickly and with limited visibility, and then make their way down an often-blocked and narrow path onto the beach,” says the report.

Over the last three years, the Saanich pound has received two to three complaints a year about aggressive dogs on the beach, but no cases of serious injury, said the report.

However, members of the beach committee observed people being afraid when dogs ran at them or their children. They also found some owners did not display appropriate control over their dogs. Group dog play raised safety concerns and prompted some people to avoid the area.

The committee calculated that excessive barking averaged less than 20 minutes during a 12-hour period. However, they found instances of dog owners teasing their dogs with balls and sticks to make them bark.

They also noted “unnecessary owner yelling” directed at off-leash dogs walking along peacefully.

The committee found that not enough signs are posted about the dog restrictions.

All three options proposed by the committee call for extension of the restricted period to Sept. 15 from Aug. 31.

All three also call for creation of a volunteer group to act as beach keeper/ambassadors to develop a dog-owner code of conduct.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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