As one of the hundreds of responsible dog owners in Nelson, I feel compelled to respond to recent discussion regarding the downtown dog bylaw. It is my understanding that the original intent of the bylaw developed by community members and business owners was to eliminate the practice by irresponsible dog-owners of leaving dogs tied to parking meters for long periods and to make sure that streets were clear of dog waste. These are initiatives that I fully support. Having dogs on leash in populated areas (not designated off-leash) is also something I strongly support.
The statement in Keith Roenspiess’s letter to the Editor in the January 25 Nelson Star (“Dog bylaw must remain intact”) that “visitors to our town feel that not allowing their dogs to defecate on six blocks of our downtown core spoils their Nelson experience” is just plain silly. The motivation for visitors and residents to bring their dogs downtown is pretty much the same as those that want to bring any member of their family downtown; they want them along for companionship and these owners are also providing responsible care by having their dogs in their charge. These same dog owners are the ones that have their dogs on leash and carry poop-scoop bags with them — responsible dog-owners aren’t shy about cleaning up what their dog leaves behind.
It’s interesting that Mr. Roenspiess chose to include a photo of a mess that was made while the current anti-dog bylaw is in place. I would suggest that if the current bylaw were amended to: 1) require dogs to be on leash; 2) in the control of the owner at all times; and 3) that the owner has poop-scoop bags on hand, photos like Mr. Roenspiess’s would be non-existent. I believe that the presence of responsible dog owners in downtown Nelson in compliance with the new rules would actually put great pressure on the irresponsible dog-owners to conform. If the bylaw was amended and dog owners given the chance to prove their commitment to responsible ownership, I can assure you that this group will self-police and make sure that those not willing to conform are held to account. Yes there will probably be some that will refuse to conform — there are always going to be “rogue elements” that choose contradictory behaviours — they are everywhere in society and not just restricted to dog owners.
I was part of the five-person committee that had Phase III of the Waterfront pathway designated as off-leash in 2000. This is one of the best used pathways in Nelson and yet there was serious concern by some committee members that allowing dogs off-leash on the pathway would not be a good thing — thankfully there were a couple of us that persevered. It is true that there some dog owners that use the pathway choose not to clean-up after their hounds, but those people are in the minority and more often than not, you will see a responsible owner doing a sweep cleaning up after the non-conformers.
Some of the examples in Mr. Roenspiess’s letter suggest that he hasn’t had very good experiences with dogs and dog owners and as such responsible dog owners like me have been painted in an unfavorable light. This is truly unfortunate. I make a daily trip to the dog park with my dog and two other large hounds that I look after. I walk from my house with all three dogs on-leash until we get to the dog park then we walk down the pathway to the boat club parking lot, the dogs are put on leash then we walk back home. Extra plastic bags are attached to each leash and are used when messes are made. I am not in the minority with my actions. There are more responsible dog owners in town than not. It is too bad that the actions of the irresponsible few are so visible.
It is my sincere desire that city council consider amending the bylaw that would allow dogs on-leash and under the constant care of their owner into the downtown core. I am prepared to commit time to this and am willing to sit on a committee to review the bylaw.