White Rock city staff presented council with survey results of the Dogs on the Promenade pilot project at Monday’s (June 29) meeting.
Overall results of the survey – which reached 1,001 individual respondents and 18 businesses – show 67 per cent approval for allowing dogs on the promenade in the off-season, 30 per cent opposition and two per cent unsure, according to the report from planning and development director Carl Isaak.
When narrowed down to respondents with a White Rock postal code, the results show 61 per cent approval, 36 per cent opposition, two per cent unsure and one per cent giving conditional support, depending on factors such as a reduced length of season or additional regulation and enforcement.
The controversial pilot project ran from Oct. 1, 2019 to March 31 of this year.
Council endorsed the staff recommendations that the results of the city survey be forwarded to the city’s Dogs on the Promenade Task Force, and that individual written reports from members, including observations and recommendations, be submitted back to council by Aug. 31.
At the same time, council received, as an ‘on table’ submission from resident Ron Kistritz – a former member of the task force who resigned – a report on usage and compliance with rules by dog owners on the East Beach section of the promenade.
Kistritz contends that – on East Beach during the pilot period – one in four dog walkers were responsible for a bylaw violation, and that some 309 were observed not picking up after their dog (although he asserts this was a significant underestimate due to “poop fairies and city staff” removing evidence before it could be recorded).
One in 12 dogs being walked on the promenade was off-leash, in contravention of the rules, he asserts, while only 5.6 per cent of promenade users were dog walkers.
While endorsing the survey report, councillors were mindful that further enforcement of bylaws will be necessary if allowing dogs on the promenade in the off-season is to become permanent policy.
Coun. David Chesney, who supports continuing the policy, questioned Isaak on the fact that only nine dog walkers were issued with bylaw tickets on the promenade and pier during the trial period – in contrast with a spate of letters and comments received by council complaining about infractions.
“Nine tickets? I could probably give out nine tomorrow,” he said, adding “something needs to be done about the bylaw enforcement.”
Similarly, Coun. Helen Fathers, who originally suggested the pilot project, said that bylaw enforcement is key to continuing the policy.
“I think it’s something we do need to address, whether that’s us providing (staff) with the money to be able to hire more people to do the job that our community expects.”
In response to a question from Coun. Anthony Manning of whether dog licensing fees could ultimately bear the costs of a continued program, Dogs on the Promenade Task Force chair Scott Kristjanson said that while this was outside the task force mandate, one model could be the City of Calgary’s dog licensing program.
“In Calgary, dog licences pay for all bylaw enforcement, and the dog parks,” he said.
“And dog owners, in order to get licences, have to demonstrate that their dogs are well-trained; they have to take courses if they’re not, and they have to demonstrate, when a bylaw officer asks you to, that you have control over your dog.”