Sooke wants dogs unleashed from ties that bind

Sooke is appealing to the Capital Regional District to allow dogs to be walked unleashed on trails such as the portion of the Galloping Goose that goes through the Sooke area.

A Sooke bylaw allows for dogs to be walked unleashed in parks provided they are under the effective control of their owners, said Mayor Maja Tait. Sooke council would like the same rule applied to trails such as the Galloping Goose.

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“The Goose changes as it goes throughout the region. It’s not a commuter trail for us. It’s more of a rural area as it goes up to the [Sooke] Potholes,” Tait said. “It’s for recreational use and our residents have used and enjoyed that area for a very long time, have taken good care for their dogs and have been respectful of other users. Now they’re getting warnings and fines and being told to go elsewhere.”

Sooke council passed a motion this summer calling on the CRD to consider adding a provision to its regional trails management plan to permit off-leash dogs on the Sooke portion of the Sea-To-Sea Park trails, the Galloping Goose Trail and trails and surrounding area along the Sooke River Potholes between Kilometre 49 and the CRD watershed lands. An exception is to be made between June 1 and Sept. 15 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Tait said Sooke council is looking for a compromise in the regulations for its residents.

CRD began enforcement of the dogs on leash provisions in March, prompting a number of residents to approach council to complain, Tait said.

“It was enough that many people came as a delegation, who have enjoyed this trail and who no longer feel welcome in their own backyard for recreation,” Tait said. “And nobody’s on the trail when they’re there … except, I guess, the odd bylaw enforcement officer.”

View Royal Mayor David Screech, CRD parks committee chair, said the region has to be careful about making changes. The broader issue of dogs in CRD parks is being examined by staff, he said.

“I think staff are hoping that we would incorporate that request into that study,” Screech said.

“It’s a tough one. There’s no doubt that on the more rural part of the trail the demands are different. But having said that, I’ve certainly heard loudly from people in Metchosin, for example, that they don’t like the idea of dogs being off-leash there and that’s not that far removed from the Sooke portion.”

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