Over 35 per cent of Vancouver households have a dog—so why are there so few off-leash parks?

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      There are more than 250 parks in Vancouver, but only 39 off-leash dog areas—approximately 16 per cent of all parks. Yet between 36 per cent and 39 per cent of all households own at least one dog. 

      In comparison, there are 24 parks with ball diamonds—approximately 10 per cent of all parks. Yet less than one per cent of the population plays recreational baseball or softball. And while dog walkers are out two to three times a day year round, the season for baseball is from April to September, with games one or two times a week.

      For dog owners in Vancouver, the downtown is the hardest done by, with only 18,714 square-metres of dog parks for one of the densest population areas in North America. Emery Barnes dog park, one of the most highly used, is only 856 square-metres, approximately equal to a backyard in Shaughnessy (or one urban plaza). The Stanley Park dog area is only 450 square-metres; the smallest off-leash dog area in Vancouver, it’s less than the size of a pocket park.

      Based on the numbers, more than 10,000 dog owners live in Vancouver’s downtown and have access to about one-fifth of a football field for dog play areas. Not surprisingly, many dog conflicts occur downtown. When you have nowhere to go, problems will arise.

      The big winner for off-leash areas is South Vancouver. The heavy hitter off-leash dog parks are, however, far on the edges of the city at Everett Crowley Park on the far south-eastern edge, and Fraser River Park in the far south-west.

      The West Side comes in second with Spanish Banks’ off-leash area being a nirvana for dogs and their owners. When the tide is out, this zone expands to three times its size and helps to ensure dogs are happy and well exercised.

      The Eastside comes in third, with approximately five times as much off-leash space as the downtown (but one-third of the south side). Trout Lake off-leash area is the largest space for dogs here, despite the fact that the lake carries the dangerous giardia bacteria in the hot summer months.

      When talking to visitors from other places—Oregon, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh—the attitude towards dogs in Vancouver is often found to be odd. Here we seem to vilify dogs rather than celebrate them, seeing them as pests rather than important companions for our mental health. Hampstead Heath, one of the largest dog parks in London, has a wonderful bylaw: “keep dogs under proper control.” Enough said.