Residents speak up on using dog leashes

A proposed animal control bylaw in Sun Peaks is eliciting various reactions from dog owners in the community.

The Sun Peaks Municipal council introduced the initial draft and passed two readings of the Animal Control Bylaw No. 0018, 2011 at the council meeting last Aug. 15.

A significant portion of the proposed bylaw’s content is related to dog regulations. Among other things, the bylaw specifies leashed areas and off-leash areas.

One of the polarizing parts of the bylaw is the leashed areas. If the bylaw is passed after a third reading scheduled on Sept. 19, dog owners will be required to keep their dogs on a leash in the village core, the Valley Trail and on the base of ski areas. The idea was to ensure the safety of people in the community’s high traffic areas.

All other areas are considered off-leash, however dog owners must still supervise their dogs and be prepared to use a leash if necessary.

“I think it’s a great idea. I have no problem with that; I think that’s how it should be,” said Celeste McLaren, a dog owner and Sun Peaks resident. McLaren said she thinks the expectation from dog owners won’t really change that much if the bylaw is put in place. She said she has observed dog owners being responsible with their canines in Sun Peaks.

“Whenever I walk the Valley Trail, I generally see people with their dogs on a leash,” she said. “People are with their dogs and they’re not running at large (in our subdivision).”

Other dog owners are not entirely thrilled with the idea. They feel that if a dog owner has been responsible with their dog being off-leash and the dog has not caused trouble, they should be allowed to continue. It’s not uncommon for some dog owners to walk with their dogs off-leash at night in the village when there’s hardly anyone around.

Still for others, the answer is not as clear-cut.

“I don’t like it, but I think I have to put my personal emotions and feelings aside,” said resident and dog owner Peter Ernst of creating specified leashed areas. “The bylaw is understandable. With all the animals up here, I truly believe that, yes, that should be done.”

He said that dogs may intimidate people, especially seniors and little kids who frequent the village, so it makes sense to keep dogs on a leash in areas of the resort where there’s a lot of people.

However, as a business owner, he’s concerned how an animal control bylaw will be perceived by people who are visiting the resort.

“I don’t want to be known as a non-dog friendly resort,” he said. “Maybe there should be an area located in the future resort planning (where dogs can run off-leash, like a mini dog park). Sun Peaks needs to accommodate all walks of life.”

Ernst said he’s fine with an animal control bylaw if the requirements are reasonable and don’t drive dog owners away from the resort. “We don’t want to lose that market.”

The council will read the draft bylaw for a third time on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

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