Long walks on beaches for dogs?

After a battle with the city, a compromise has been struck to allow dogs on the city’s beaches in the winter months.

Councillor Sandra Bussin hashed out a compromise that was endorsed unanimously at the Parks and Environment Committee on Oct. 15.

The committee recommended a trial run at Woodbine and Kew-Balmy beaches that would allow dog owners to let their pooches run free off-leash between Nov. 1 to March 31.

In the summer, the dogs won’t be allowed on these beaches either on or off a leash but instead will be relegated to existing nearby off-leash dog parks at Silverbirch and Kew Gardens.

This exception is for the Eastern beach community only.

“I’m very happy. It’s the right solution and we’ll review it in a year if it isn’t,” Bussin said after the vote at the committee level. “It’s been going that way for a long time and I think it works for Ward 32.”

City staff made a presentation and wrote a report stating there are more dogs per capita than in any other part of the city, although they didn’t present specific stats.

For years, dog were allowed to run off-leash at Kew-Balmy and Woodbine beaches but that changed in 2007 when the city adopted a new off-leash dog policy. As well, the municipal government wanted to increase the number of Blue Flag beaches and indicated dogs running off leash would not help keep the water quality up to standards.

While dog feces in the water or on the sand being washed up into the lake is an issue, it is not the main contributing factor to contamination, city staff said.

Goose droppings, untreated sewage dumped into the lake during storms and pollution run-off from the streets during rainfall are the main problems.

Chris Yaccato, co-chair of Toronto’s Beaches Dog Association, was happy his community was granted an off-leash exception during the winter.

“We have been advocating that since day one,” he said. “We are certainly pleased the committee heard us out and agreed to a compromise.

“We want to show and prove we are responsible dog owners.”

His group will continue to have volunteers pick up dog waste left by irresponsible dog owners.

The off-leash option is not being offered to communities at other city beaches. At nine other swimmable beaches — four on the Toronto islands, plus Cherry, Marie Curtis East, Sunnyside, Bluffer’s and Rouge — dogs will be allowed on-leash only during the winter months of Nov. 1 to March 31.

Currently, dogs are allowed on-leash year round at Marie Curtis East, Sunnyside, Bluffer’s and Rouge beaches so this new policy represents a loss of the summer months for these locations.

This strategy still needs to be approved by city council when it meets Oct. 26-27.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Oct 21 2009 11:05 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto