Squirrel tyranny must be stopped
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012 06:00 am
When the city was discussing setting up dog parks, I thought I was being overly cynical when the thought crossed my mind that this was a covert preamble to more restrictive canine bylaws.
The recent council motion to draft a new bylaw that would require dogs to be on-leash everywhere except dog parks does not appear to be a solution to an identified problem, but rather based on pre-existing assumptions and beliefs. Having read the presentation to council on the city's website the only rationale for this that I could find is that St. Albert's bylaws were the “opposite of all other researched bylaws.” And here I thought St. Albert was actually ahead of the recent trend in North America towards loosening canine restrictions (my dog was welcome to join me this summer for a brew in a pub in Oregon.)
Coun. Malcolm Parker's comment that “If a dog is on a leash, the owner has it under control” is one of those vacuous political statements that at first appears to have some meaning. However it is simply stating the obvious: if a dog is in a crate, it is under control; if a teenager is kept in his bedroom after dark, he is under control. This is not a digital question, it is a matter of degree. The question is, what is an appropriate and minimally required level of control for dogs? (And teenagers too, I suppose, but that's a different matter.)
Certain situations do require leashes (busy roads – especially those crossed by suicidal squirrels.) Certain dogs require leashes (a greyhound when something white goes running by). And certain people require leashes (for their dog I mean – it's too much trouble to take Fluffy to obedience classes.) But leashes are not required in all places and situations.
While the proposed bylaw is supposedly meant to solve some problem (as yet unknown to me), there are other unintended negative consequences. For example:
• Dog parks do not allow for effective dog training (ever try tossing a retriever dummy for your pointer when there are several Labradors around?)
• Leashes can seriously restrict some types of training (imagine running a border collie through weave poles on a leash.)
• Going across town to a dog park increases vehicle usage (not good for the environment or my fitness.)
• Being on-leash can increase aggression in some dogs.
I encourage city councillors to re-evaluate what they expect to achieve with a revised bylaw and to base their decisions on evidence rather than assumptions or because everybody else does it. It’s time for councillors to stand up to the squirrel lobby group (who my dog insists are the ones really behind this proposed bylaw).
Wayne Wilson, St. Albert