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Old April 17th, 2003, 07:34 AM
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Dog ban at national park resumed April 1

JIM BROWN, Journal Pioneer

CHARLOTTETOWN Dogowners throughout the Island have been placed on notice by park wardens at the Prince Edward Island National Park the dog ban on beaches within the park is in force again, as of April 1.
Dogowners who fail to heed the ban face a $50 fine, plus a $10 victim surcharge, said Carl Betts, warden operations co-ordinator.

The snowswept beaches are virtually empty now, but when the snows melt visitors will return to the 40-km stretch of sand, from Blooming Point to New London, including Greenwich.

Betts said four wardens will patrol the beaches during the spring with the number rising to seven once the tourist season is in full swing.

Security issues have been resolved this year, meaning for the first time in years park wardens will patrol beaches, rather than RCMP officers.

Wardens wanted to the right to wear sidearms since they felt their safety was at risk, but though they still can't carry guns, other measures have been taken to address their concerns, said Betts.

When the dog ban was introduced in May, 2000, parks officials received a flood of angry complaints from dog-lovers and numerous warnings were issued to visitors who flouted the law.

Now that the regulation has been in place for a few years, complaints and warning notices have dwindled, said Betts.

The controversy has simply faded away, he said.

Betts stressed his wardens have other pressing duties, other than handing out warnings and fines to dogowners who bring their canines to the beach. Wardens will also be involved in work designed to remove poison ivy and purple loosestrife.

There is a long list of other "resource" issues wardens will be paying close attention to, including protecting the nesting sites of piping plovers, an endangered species.

According to a news release from Parks Canada, free roaming dogs can threaten the feeding patterns of nesting birds, attack wildlife and pose a threat to humans. Dog excrement is considered a health risk.

Dogs are allowed in most other areas of the park, except kitchen shelters and washrooms, but they must be leashed at all times and owners must clean up after their pets.

Parks Canada officials also urged the public not to feed the wildlife. "Animals fed by humans become dependent and are unable to hunt for food on their own," according to the Parks Canada news release.

"Additionally, animals drawn to highways are often killed by vehicles while looking for a handout."
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