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West Van Seawalk goes to the dogs as council loosens leash on restrictions

Canine companions will no longer be banned from municipality’s prized promenade
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Sandra McLean and her dog Weston enjoy the view at the east end of the Centennial Seawalk. West Vancouver will soon be loosening restrictions to allow dogs on the Seaswalk. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

West Vancouver council has officially let the dogs out.

On Monday night, a majority of council voted to loosen the leash on longstanding restrictions that have kept canine companions from walking with their owners near many local parks and on the West Vancouver Seawalk.

Council gave third reading to changing the animal control bylaws, which currently ban pooches from many public walking areas, including the Seawalk.

When the bylaw is finally adopted, owners will be allowed to walk leashed and licensed dogs along pedestrian areas of the Seawalk, along paved footpaths in Horseshoe Bay, Ambleside and Dundarave parks and around the perimeter of sports fields, playgrounds and recreational beaches – although not actually on them.

John Lawson Park and Millennium Park will remain off limits to pooches.

Couns. Linda Watt and Christine Cassidy shepherded the effort to change the rules, arguing it’s past time that West Vancouver took the paws-itive step to become more Fido friendly.

Cassidy and Watt said restrictions on where pooches can promenade in West Vancouver are outdated and out of line with what’s allowed in most other communities.

Predictably, however, the debate has raised hackles among both dog owners and those who’d prefer other people’s pets kept their distance.

A number of dog owners showed up to council previously to support the move to a more Fido-friendly Seawalk.

On Monday, however, a similar number showed up to oppose the change.

Most said they were concerned that dogs would crowd vulnerable seniors off the Seawalk and potentially create tripping hazards with extendable leashes.

“Allowing dogs on leashes on any segment of the Seawalk will impact the entire foreshore experience for walkers without dogs.… Even the nicest dogs react unpredictably at times. Dogs like to meet and greet other dogs and people, and as friendly and lovable as dogs can be, not everyone wants to be around them,” said Anne Mcdonald.

Others spoke of having to potentially dodge dog poop and listen to barking dogs.

Both Jennifer Azizi and dog walker Lisa Brasso spoke in favour of the change.

“Concerns over mayhem and poop aren’t really about mistrusting dogs. They are about not trusting the dog guardians,” said Azizi. “When you walk into a grocery store, you trust that other shoppers won’t hit you with a wayward grocery cart. When you walk past someone watering their garden, you trust that they won’t soak you with their hose. Why is sharing the waterfront so difficult to accept?”

Watt and Cassidy both spoke in favour of the change, saying walking the Seawalk should be open to anyone, including those with dogs.

Cassidy argued that dog ownership is good for people’s mental health and that dogs are a good conversation starter.

Coun. Sharon Thompson said she had unanswered questions about how the municipality will make sure dog owners are following the rules and how West Van will measure if changing the rules was the right thing to do.

Thompson said given that, she doesn’t support dogs being allowed on the Seawalk.

Coun. Nora Gambioli also didn’t support the change, saying in the past two weeks “we’ve heard both from people who are very mad and very glad” about the change.

Gambioli said she didn’t agree with the way the change was brought about, without more public input or comment from staff.

The changes allowing dogs on the Seawalk and several other public areas in West Vancouver passed third reading Monday night with the majority of council voting to approve them, and Thompson and Gambioli opposed.

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