Residents are lobbying the city of Coquitlam to increase the number of off-leash parks for dogs.
Citizens are petitioning the city, arguing that it has not kept pace with the expanding dog population. Coquitlam currently has four off-leash dog parks compared to 31 similar parks in Vancouver.
“The dog population is growing and the tiny square footage of suites in new developments are catering to empty nesters, many of whom own dogs but no cars,” said Randall Goodchild, a Coquitlam resident and dog owner who launched the petition in early November.
Goodchild said the lack of off-leash areas “is not healthy for both the pets and pet owners.”
Even existing off-lease areas are small and poorly maintained with inadequate access for residents, especially seniors and disabled.
“Too many dogs in a confined space is a surefire recipe for aggression and clashes between dogs so a bigger space is essential,” said Goodchild.
Coquitlam City Council member Richard Stewart said he recognizes the need for more areas to allow dogs off leash in Coquitlam but also understands it has to be done “delicately.”
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“We have to be sure we don’t harm the natural values of the park or disrupt the neighbours in anyway,” said Stewart.
LaFarge Park, one of the parks proposed as an off-leash area, is currently a centre for sports and activities for children in the area and hosts many games for neighbouring schools.
Michelle Cowen, a mother of two children who play in the park, said she is concerned about their safety if the proposal is adopted.
“I would not be very impressed if I knew there are dogs off leash in LaFarge. My children are small and prone to attack by an excited dog.”
The petition includes a clause that recognizes there should be limits to where dogs can be let off leash. It also calls for designated areas and times for dogs to be off-leash, indicating that organized activities take precedence over use by pet owners.
Currently, Goodchild and his group of dog owners feel they have no option to let their dogs off leash except in the public areas.
“There is less and less green space for us to walk without being harassed and feeling like we have to break the law to get our dogs some exercise,” said Goodchild.
Dog owner, Cheryl Ibsen, supports the petition. “I think they like to be free and to be able to run around in a safe environment.”
Lorie Chortyk, spokesperson for the BC SPCA, said that the organization supports initiatives that improve the lives of animals, including off-leash dog spaces. Chortyk said off-leash dog parks are particularly important for Coquitlam’s Town Centre community because the parks promote responsible dog ownership and enforcement of dog control laws.
“They give dogs a safe place to exercise safely reducing stress, barking problems as well as allowing them to behave when indoors. For senior residents it is a chance to get exercise with their companions and provide an area for community building among members,” said Chortyk.
Council members will vote on the issue at a meeting scheduled for late November.