Nelson businesses are hoping a change to the dog bylaw can help the city shed it’s negative label as not being dog friendly.
“Even in Victoria, I was out there this summer, and someone asked me where I was from and I said ‘Nelson’ and they responded by saying ‘Oh that’s the place that isn’t friendly to dogs.’ So it’s out there,” said Noreen Lynas, owner of Cotton’s Clothing Company.
The city’s downtown core is part of a no dog zone, which has become a topic of ongoing controversy and discussion.
During the election Mayor John Dooley mentioned the challenges of the bylaw at the all-candidates forum at Central School.
“My dog Finnigan isn’t happy with it at all,” he said. “I tell him that there are other roads to walk down.”
But Lynas said it’s a challenge for dog owners who may have to violate the dog bylaw to walk to the dog walk.
“Or walk all the way around, and I won’t do that. I end up driving instead of walking which the defeats the purpose of what we’re trying to do,” she said.
Business in and around the downtown core will be meeting to discuss the desire for a change to the bylaw.
“Unfortunately we haven’t had a chance to survey all the businesses on Baker Street, but there is talk about trying to make some changes to the point where the chief of police said that maybe we need to revisit some of those bylaws because they are old bylaws,” said Lynas. “Maybe we need to go back to allowing dogs under control and only ticketing people that have their dogs running wild.”
Sgt. Howie Grant of the Nelson Police Department said most Nelson residents are aware of the bylaw and the no dog zone.
“Usually it’s visitors to town and they’re just made aware of the no dog zone areas and it’s left at that,” he said. “There’s more public awareness and education given out than actual tickets.”
Grant said the bylaw came into effect because there were a lot of “irresponsible dog owners”
“Dogs were defecating on the sidewalks. It was unsightly,” he said. “I think these days most dog owners are responsible, and these days most are. Some aren’t but that was the issue and that’s why it was brought in that many years ago.”
Downtown businesses are feeling the effect — particularly in the summer — of the bylaw.
“I know the bylaw officers try to be lenient, but I know this year I had a customer that came in the store and he was walking two little dogs,” said Lynas. “He was a tourist from out of town and he was approached four times about his two little dogs on a leash, and when it’s 30 degrees you can’t leave your dog in a car. He said ‘We’ve got to go, we can’t stay.’”
Lynas fears the city’s unfriendly persona may be driving away tourism and thinks it’s time to revisit the bylaw.
“To me we need to revisit it and allow dogs under control on Baker Street. The containers for the dog pick up in case the dog messes on the street and allow dogs on leash,” she said. “If there are dogs out of control and if people are pushing the boundaries than we’ll need to take control of that.”