Six Vancouver neighbourhoods may get new off-leash areas for dogs

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      Vancouver dog owners are likely to see more places where their pets can run free.

      The Vancouver board of parks and recreation is recommending additional off-leash areas for dogs in the city.

      A discussion guide prepared by staff for a proposed strategy on how residents with and without dogs can better share parks and beaches lists six neighbourhoods that are densely populated and underserved.

      These are the West End, Downtown, Kitsilano, Fairview, Mount Pleasant, and Grandview-Woodland.

      “We know that people prefer conveniently located dog off-leash areas,” according to the discussion guide. “We also know that, right now, off-leash areas are not evenly distributed around Vancouver …”

      In an interview in September last year, then park board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung said that people want to see more places where they can let their dogs roam and play.

      “Dogs are permitted in all Vancouver parks, but on-leash,” Kirby-Yung told the Straight by phone at the time. “And we do have a limited number of off-leash areas. But one thing I do hear from dog owners is, you know, the need to spend time and distance to get to the closest dog park.”

      There are 36 off-leash areas in Vancouver. Six of these are fenced, and open all day. The remaining areas are unfenced, and space is shared by people with and without dogs. Many of these off-leash areas have time and seasonal restrictions.

      Except for the beaches on Sunset, Spanish Banks, and Hadden Park, dogs aren’t allowed on beaches.

      Putting together a dog strategy hasn’t been easy.

      Back in 2007, the citizen-based Dog Strategy Task Force created by the city failed to come up with recommendations because members cannot agree on issues, like the selection of off-leash areas.

      This time, a plan is expected to be delivered to park commissioners in the spring.

      The strategy seeks to ensure that residents can reach neighbourhood off-leash areas within a kilometre or 15-minute walk.

      The proposed plan also includes “destination off-leash areas” within a 35-minute walk or short drive. These are larger than 1.2 hectares, with washrooms for owners and a “pooch patch” or a dog waste area.

      The discussion guide notes that dogs are current not allowed in or within 15 metres of playgrounds and artificial turf fields in either on-leash or off-leash parks.

      The proposed strategy recommends restricting dogs from the following areas: splash pads, wading pools, designated picnic areas and sports fields, and ecologically-sensitive areas. This applies to parks and beaches where dogs are allowed either on-leash or off-leash.

      The proposed strategy also recommends removing time-of-use restrictions from most of the off-leash areas.

      If approved by park commissioners, off-leash activity will be allowed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the whole year.

      Park staff also recommend a one-year pilot project to add off-leash hours from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. in selected downtown parks, where off-leash dog activity is not currently permitted, like George Wainborn Park.

      The strategy also proposes a code of conduct for dog owners. These include keeping dogs under voice control and close supervision at all times. Pet owners also shouldn’t allow their dogs to be aggressive to people and other dogs. Also, they should pick up after their dogs.

      The park board is hosting eight open houses for the dog strategy. The first open house will be held on Wednesday (February 8) at the Kitsilano Community Centre (2690 Larch Street), from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

      Details of the proposed dog strategy are found here.