People, Pets and Parks: A District Wide Strategy for Sharing Saanich’s Parks
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At the Special Council Meeting on July 5, 2021, Saanich Council approved that a strategy titled People, Pets and Parks: A District Wide Strategy for Sharing Saanich’s Parks be developed. At that meeting staff were asked to prepare a Terms of Reference to be considered by Council. Those Terms of Reference, approved by council on August 4, 2021, outlines the selection of a qualified proponent to enter into a contract with the District of Saanich to develop the strategy.
Recently there has been growing calls from residents for Saanich to review policies and/or regulations relating to pet management in parks. In Saanich, pet owners bring a variety of pets/animals with them when visiting parks such as horses, cats, birds, etc. but the vast majority of pets observed and reported incidents involve dogs. This is why existing rules and policies focus mainly on dogs in parks.
Many communities across the country have established designated off leash areas or “dog parks” as a way to manage conflicts between owners, their pets and other park users that would prefer a pet free experience. Currently Saanich is unique in that with a few notable exceptions, most of Saanich’s parks are considered “off leash” so long as the dogs are kept under the effective control of their owners. The Animal Bylaw has been the tool to enforce this requirement. However, given the large size of the municipality and relatively low enforcement resources there has been little consistent pro-active enforcement throughout the municipality. There are few polices or bylaws relating to other pets in parks currently at Saanich.
Council has decided that an overarching District Wide People, Pets and Parks Strategy that encompasses the entire municipality is the preferred approach to addressing the community’s calls. The scope of work for the project includes researching best practices, other successful municipal strategies, current park use and behaviour in Saanich, reviewing commercial pet related businesses (in parks), opportunities for bylaw amendments/enforcement, physical infrastructure requirements and public engagement.