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Moncton dogs want a space of their own

May 5th, 2003, 03:48 PM
Moncton dogs want a space of their own
Dog owners bemoan lack of space to take pets for a run

Times & Transcript Staff

Is Moncton going to the dogs?

According to what some city councillors have been hearing from their constituents, the canine population has been getting too much of a free reign lately.

They are hearing reports of dogs running loose in parks, defecating in public places and keeping people awake with incessant barking.

Although Moncton has a bylaw requiring dogs to be leashed in public places, "you still see them running in the parks and crapping all over the place," Deputy Mayor Merrill Henderson told a meeting this week of city councilís legal committee.

"Iím a dog lover, but there are some people who are very afraid of dogs running up to them when they are out walking," said Henderson.

Coun.-at-large Lorne Mitton agreed, noting his daughter is afraid of dogs. "She will be walking in a park and a dog will be running loose. The owner may re-assure her by saying, ĎDonít worry, he wonít hurt you.' But that won't make her feel any safer," he said.

Coun.-at-large Kathryn Barnes said the owner of a dog who is keeping the neighbours awake at night by barking is also violating the law.
"But it is just as annoying to have a dog barking all day," said Barnes. "And if the dog is barking steadily like that, there has to be a reason and the owner has to bear the responsibility for it."

Ward 3 Coun. George LeBlanc, chairman of the legal committee, said the town will be launching some "blitzes" in the next while to try to bring canine problems under control.

LeBlanc said the first one will be a media blitz to increase public awareness about the bylaw's restrictions regarding dogs.

He said this will be followed by an "enforcement blitz," where city staff, assisted by "cadets" from Oulton College's security officer program, will be on hand at public sites, the time and place of which will not be announced in advance. Providing that information ahead of time would defeat the purpose, he said.

When they spot a dog owner with their pet unleashed, or performing some other violation, LeBlanc said they will inform the person they are breaking the law and give them a pamphlet or brochure to that effect. He said further blitzes could result in tighter enforcement measures.

However, dog owners are crying foul over the animal control bylaw. They bemoan the fact that their pets are not allowed off their leashes in public locations, arguing this gives them no place to take the animals for a run.

Kai Jensen of Scoudouc, president of the Moncton Kennel Club, said he has three acres (1.2 hectares) of land where he lives, enclosed by an eight-foot (2Ĺ-metre) chain-link fence. So his German shepherds have all kinds of room to run without bothering anyone.

However, dog owners residing in Moncton do not have that benefit, said Jensen. As a result, a committee has been formed that is aimed at creating a "dog park" in the city, he said, adding the club is fully behind the effort.

Janet Bourgeois, first vice-president for the club and a member of the committee, said the group is just getting started, but will accelerate its efforts following the annual Moncton Kennel Club Dog Show which was held over the weekend.

It is badly needed, said Bourgeois, because dog owners have no place in the city to take their pets and let them run free. She said the committee is in the process of trying to round up sponsors for the project and is hopeful the city will help out by finding some facility, such as an abandoned ball park, which could be used for the dog park.

Dr. Marlene Gallon, owner/veterinarian of the Mountain Road Animal Hospital in Moncton, said all dogs, especially the big ones, need to get exercise. "If they don't get it," she said, "they will become overweight and their body will even lose muscle mass."

Gallon said the "dog park" is a good idea because it would provide a place for dogs to run, play ball and Frisbees.

The only disadvantage, said the veterinarian, is that some dogs are aggressive and attack other dogs that get anywhere near them. "But their owners should know this and keep a wary eye out when they are around other dogs," she said.

LeBlanc said the committee is also examining the idea of a dog park, employing possibly a playground or ballfield no longer being used. However, there are some "downside risks" to the idea that have to be factored in, he said.

Echoing Gallon's concern, the committee chairman said some dogs will attack other canines, citing the incident of a dog recently accosting the pet of a friend of his, coming close to killing the latter.

Another risk, said LeBlanc, is whether enough animal owners would support a dog park - if it were built - to make it viable. But he noted the committee is definitely examining that option.