Off-leash park has resident barking mad

[attach]5014[/attach]A major factor in Paul Wesley’s decision to move to Monarch Park Avenue three years ago was the proximity to the park of the same name.

Now, he feels it’s unsafe to bring his children there. The problem, Wesley says, is the off-leash dog park found there isn’t fenced in.

“Dog’s run rampant throughout the entire park and it’s not safe at all for children or for adults,” he said. “I’ve seen several dog fights, dogs just roaming freely — Dobermans, German Shepherds, etcetera.”

Wesley says he has written to councillor Paula Fletcher, who directed him to parks, forestry and recreation. But he says he gets the runaround at that level, being told it’s an issue that was downloaded to animal services. And that department has told him they don’t have the manpower to monitor the area.

“It’s frustrating because no one wants to deal with the issue,” he said, calling it a political issue. “No one wants to upset the dog owners, but at the same time I don’t feel like I can use the park the way I want to, and I shouldn’t feel threatened in my own neighbourhood.”

Though there are signs in the park indicating where the off-leash area is, Wesley says they are ineffective because just pay no attention to them. He also said money shouldn’t be a concern for the city, considering this is a safety issue.

“The whole idea of an off-leash area without a fence is ridiculous,” Wesley said, likening it to a non-peeing section in a pool. “It makes no sense. People treat the whole park as a dog park.”

Wesley says he goes to the park daily at 4 p.m. with his two-year-old daughter and will be doing the same one day with his son, who was born at the beginning of October. But with the roaming dogs and the potential danger they present to children, it makes him feel unwelcome.

“We want to stay in this neighbourhood and one of the reasons we moved here, to be honest, was for the park,” he said. “It’s a huge park, it’s a great park and I want to be able to use it.”

Though he hasn’t been able to get a solution from the city, Wesley says there a few options for what to do with the off-leash area.

For one, he says, the area could be fenced in or shrunk, then fenced in, while another option is to direct dog owners to a nearby park that has a fenced-in area. Barring those, another alternative would be getting rid of it altogether.

“I don’t want to be dramatic, because some days when you walk down there is quite nice,” he said, making sure to mention that he doesn’t blame or dislike the dogs. “But for the most part when I’m down there it’s not a friendly place to be.”

4 thoughts on “Off-leash park has resident barking mad

  • I was a few years old when my family adopted our first German Shepherd, and I spent my entire childhood living in this neighbourhood and playing in Monarch Park. I loved the playground, the swimming pool and skating rink…but my greatest pleasure was to stand on the off-leash hill with my family and get to know the dogs and their owners. Whether I knew or not at the time, I was acquiring a lot of tacit knowledge about how to responsibly understand and interact with the canine members of our community.

    I don’t want to undermine Mr. Wesley’s concern for his children. The concern itself is evidence of good intentions. And I sympathize. I am lucky to have and enjoy Monarch for all that it is, and have never taken it for granted. However, as the owner of a ‘large dog’, I must object to Mr. Wesley’s statements. I believe his conclusions are profoundly misdirected for the following reasons.

    As some above comments have noted, dog skirmishes do happen on occasion. Fortunately, Monarch has relatively few of them compared with other off-leash dog parks. Perhaps this is owed to the ample space dog owners have to co-exist peacefully in the event that their dogs don’t get along. It is also likely that episodes Mr. Wesley observed to be ‘fights’ were actually dogs in play. Someone with an incomplete understanding of dog behaviour can easily confuse these – dogs happen to make a lot of noise when they play. Sometimes they can sound vicious.

    The belief that ‘large dogs’ such as Shepherds pose a particular threat to families is not only untrue, but harmful. From a young age, my dog knew implicitly to treat children gently, though she had never had any such training or exposure to them as a puppy. The acuity these breeds have is quite remarkable, and in this park, it is the norm rather than the exception. Those who own dogs understand this. Those who don’t should feel a responsibility to inform themselves before making public accusations.

    Mr. Wesley speaks of an option to isolate or remove the off-leash area. I don’t know if he realizes how destructive that could be, not only to dozens of dog owners and families but to the greater community of the park. This area is not simply an open space where dogs run wild, but just like the children’s play area it is a thriving social community with its own sensitivities and needs. Also, Mr. Wesley may not realize that far from being a threat to his family, the presence of dogs and their owners is in fact extremely protective. It prevents this area of the park from becoming a hangout for the student populations of nearby secondary schools. This is even more significant for the evening and nighttime hours. Someone with young children must surely realize the merits of this situation.

    The effectiveness of dog owners in keeping their dogs disciplined and under control is of the essence here. There are some owners whose dogs stray away and disturb other park residents, but again, these are the irresponsible few. Also of interest is the fact that the most aggressive behaviour I have witnessed from dogs in the park is from the smaller breeds, whose owners don’t feel the need to discipline them because of their size. If Mr. Wesley’s account has any validity, then it is nonetheless directed at the wrong people.

    Not much has changed since I was young – people still bring their children to walk their dogs, and it is as great a pleasure as it ever was. If there are issues and misunderstandings, there must be a way to have a mature and constructive dialogue about them. We have been living together harmoniously for many years before Mr. Wesley joined our community. There is no reason why we should not continue to do so.

  • diyman

    While I agree the writer has presented a one-sided article, I do understand where Mr. Wesley is coming from. I am a dog owner who goes to the park everyday, twice a day. On regular occasions dogs are chasing squirrels from tree to tree throughout the park, and owners walk with their unleashed dogs through the on leash area. Yes, the dogs are generally well behaved – however that really isn’t the point.

    Mr. Wesley and his children should be able to enjoy the on leash areas of the park without encountering dogs that are off leash.

    It’s not about whether you are a responsible dog owner – and yes, most in the park are.
    It’s about respect – respecting the on leash areas by leashing your dog when you’re in it.. Respecting that not everyone likes dogs, is dog savvy, or or wants to guess whether yours is friendly when it wanders by.

    Those that have commented are right – we are fortunate to have such a large off leash area – we should ensure it stays that way by leashing our dogs everywhere else in the park.

  • Alsatian

    Our family has lived in this neighborhood since 1985. We have been taking our dogs to Monarch Park since we moved here. In our recollection, there hasen’t been any major issues between ‘dog people’ and ‘non dog people’. After reading the above article, it appears we have been deluded. We are fequently in Monarch Park with our dogs at around 4 PM, and have yet to see German Shepards and Dobermans running rampant.Mr. Wesley seems to be grossly exaggerating the situation. Many dog owners bring their small children to the park to co-mingle with the dogs. This seems to be very beneficial to both the children and the dogs. It’s a shame Mr. Wesley can’t overcome his apparent irrational fear of dogs. We think it would be a great idea if Mr Wesley and his daughter would come over and say Hi to us dog people and our furry friends, it would probably be good for everybody!

  • I’m wondering if the reporter visited Monarch Park or spoke with any of the other area residents who frequent there, be they dog owners or not, to present a more balanced article.

    My dog and I visit Monarch Park at least once a day, sometimes more, and I know how lucky we are to have such a wonderful off-leash park to go to. I’m not sure what Mr. Wesley has witnessed but as someone who has spent a lot of time in that park, often at 4:00pm, I have rarely witnessed any frightening incidents between dogs nor between dogs and humans. Sure, there have been a few skirmishes among the dogs — that’s bound to happen — but overall the dogs co-exist and play well together.

    The vast majority of the dog owners are responsible and do their best to squash any possible escalations. We also watch out for little children who wander into the off-leash area and clearly aren’t familiar with the proper way to approach strange dogs. And, every spring, we, the dog owners, organize a park cleaning day that extends into all areas of the park — we know this park is for everyone, dogs, kids, neighbours, and want a friendly, safe environment for all.

    I suspect Mr. Wesley isn’t as dog-savvy and tolerant as he suggests. That he cites Dobermans and German Shepherds as the type that go roaming, he plays to the fear of those breeds by people who just aren’t familiar. If, in fact, he was aware, he would know how friendly those dog breeds are as a whole.

    I would be happy to introduce him and his children to my big, goofy dog (3/4’s German Shepherd, looks like a Lab) who loves kids and might dispel some of their fears and prejudices. I also invite Shawn Star to spend some time in the park, get to know the dogs and their owners firsthand and then write a story from that angle, since he seemed to skip this side in his first report.

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