Barking at the back door

For such loyal companions, man’s best friends have certainly caused their share of controversy in this community.

For such loyal companions, man’s best friends have certainly caused their share of controversy in this community. And not surprisingly with a new council comes a new round of the dogs-in-the-downtown debate.

Some shop owners in the city’s core are stepping up efforts to bring reforms to the bylaw that bans our four-legged friends from the streets. Today’s front page story explains the reasons behind the push, primarily those who depend on tourism are concerned the no-dog zone is leaving a bad taste with visitors.

The banishment came about in the mid-1990s when downtown business owners reached a tipping point with irresponsible pet owners, annoying buskers and the great unwashed that wandered Baker Street. Angry retailers marched to City Hall to voice their concerns, there were public meetings and nasty of letters to the editor.

The canine ban was the fallout of uproar. The Gary Exner-led council decided to do away with dogs in downtown. For more than 15 years the bylaw has stuck, but the debate has never gone away.

The landscape of the downtown has changed significantly since the mid-90s. Many of those who led the charge to clean up the streets have long since retired. Those who have replaced them in our daily downtown commerce have a new attitude and a new approach. It’s time for council to listen to them.

When you travel to communities with similar vibes as Nelson — Coeur d’Alene and Hood River are two prime examples — you will find downtowns very open to pets and their owners. Water bowls outside front doors and treats for puppies when they wander in are the norm. These communities manage through reasonable restrictions and proactive patrolling by the shop owners themselves.

In a tourism era marked by tight dollars and endless options, Nelson must continue to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep the masses coming back. And many of these tourists travel with their loving companions who never meant to cause any trouble in the first place.