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West Van councillors want to loosen leash on dog restrictions

West Vancouver’s Seawalk could go to the dogs if bylaw changes are approved

Two West Vancouver councillors say it’s time to loosen the leash on bylaws that currently restrict where four-legged friends are allowed in the municipality.

Couns. Linda Watt and Christine Cassidy say they’ll bring forward a proposal at the Oct. 30 council meeting to make West Vancouver more dog friendly, including allowing dogs back into two areas of West Vancouver that are currently off-limits to canines: the Centennial Seawalk in Ambleside and Dundarave and Horseshoe Bay Park areas.

The two councillors say it’s time to let leashed dogs back onto popular walking areas frequented by pet owners. They also say it’s time to sniff out a long-term strategy for pet pooches that would make West Vancouver more dog friendly.

Currently dogs aren’t allowed on the Seawalk in West Vancouver – and must stay in the dog run area that is separated from the public walkway by a chain link fence. Dogs are also not allowed within five metres of many other public areas in the municipality, including playgrounds, sport fields, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts, recreational swimming beaches and picnic areas.

According to a report from the two councillors, West Vancouver is one of only three Metro Vancouver municipalities which imposes a setback rule on where dogs are allowed. (Vancouver and Maple Ridge are the other two.) But they note dogs are still allowed on the Seawall in the City of Vancouver.

Doing away with that setback rule would allow leashed dogs and their owners to walk on the outskirts of playgrounds and sports fields. The relaxation of the rules would not apply to commercial dog walkers.

“Parks and trails are where residents go to walk, hike, relax, socialize and, for dog owners, walk their dogs,” reads the notice of motion by the two councillors, who say the trend to smaller living spaces combined with an increase in dog ownership means West Vancouver needs to keep up to date.

Council is expected to discuss the proposal at its Oct. 30 meeting.

In the past, the issue of where Fido should and shouldn’t be allowed has raised hackles in West Vancouver.

In 2010, council considered – then rolled over on – a pilot plan to allow man’s best friend access to the pedestrian-only section of the Seawalk. Council of the day turned tail on the plan after a public backlash against the proposal.

Community opinion at the time was passionately divided between dog owners who said the bans effectively bar them from walking with their dogs along some of the nicest stretches of West Vancouver, and others who said they’d prefer their Seawalk strolls without being barked at, frightened by dogs, stepping into canine land mines or tripping over leashes.

The motion put forward for council discussion this time, however, points to council debate that specifically excludes additional formal public consultation.

According to the councillors’ report, it would cost the municipality just under $7,400 in start-up costs to set up new dog waste bins and signs, and just under $6,300 annually in staff costs and dog poo bags to open the new areas to canines.

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