In a civilized democratic society, we accept that laws are passed by the politicians we elect to ensure all citizens are governed by, and to, the same standards. These laws are enacted because they benefit the majority of the population to gain a better society for all. Those citizens who make a choice to behave contrary to duly enacted laws can expect to be punished by penalty of law to gain compliance. It is in part, what makes us civilized.
Case in point is Nelson’s dog prohibition downtown and in some parks. Animal control bylaws are present in most municipalities, because there is always going to be a small group of individuals who make the choice to behave contrary to what the majority expect. I hear arguments that tourists with pets are boycotting Nelson because they think our town isn’t dog friendly. This simply isn’t so. We have extensive, designated dog walks (you still have to clean up after your dog) and dog friendly accommodations for visitors, and kennels in the downtown core to temporarily board your pet while you shop.
I have heard anecdotal evidence that visitors to our town feel that not allowing their dogs to defecate on six blocks of our downtown core spoils their Nelson experience, I remind them of the services mentioned previously.
That said, I have to say, if tourists come to our town and think it’s OK to soil our streets in this manner, they can take their dogs and attitudes elsewhere. It is my contention that we lose more tourist traffic when visitors come to Nelson and are greeted by the sight and smell of dogs defecating and urinating on our downtown sidewalks. You don’t hear these visitors complain, they just say, “How disgusting! What a dirty little town”, and don’t come back. The attached photo was taken earlier this month on Baker Street not far from a restaurant’s entrance and is not an uncommon sight on Baker Street even with dog control bylaws in place.
I live on a busy corner in Uphill, where pedestrian traffic is high and thus so is dog traffic. I am constantly cleaning up other peoples’ dog crap. If these owners don’t like to clean up their own dog’s crap, what makes them think others want to do it? When I ask dog owners if they would like a bag to clean their mess, they look at me like I have a second head and keep walking.
Recently a dog (no leash) charged at my 10-year-old son, in my own yard, snapping and snarling. The owner had no control over his animal and became less than apologetic when I threatened to chase his animal from my property with a shovel before it could injure my son. This is yet another example of why we need animal control bylaws in Nelson.
Animal control bylaws are especially necessary in Nelson’s parks. Every time I go to a Nelson park, without exception, there is a thoughtless dog owner, allowing his animal to run wild (no leash) among other park users. If these dogs aren’t jumping on someone or nipping at your heels, they’re defecating and urinating wherever they want. I’ve even seen dogs on leashes out of control, clothes lining young children on sidewalks and tripping up other sidewalk users.
Not everyone thinks an unruly dog is cute. I would be a lot more tolerant of dog owners breaking the law with their pets in a city park if they had the integrity to apologize or clean up after themselves.
I understand some owners are responsible, and do clean up, but many do not. As a result, the law is necessary and required to regulate all dog owners by the same standard. Unfortunately it ruins the experience for other dog owners, residents and tourists alike, that do abide by the law and basic public decency. Perhaps we all have to stand up and self-regulate these irresponsible dog owners and make them accountable for their bad behaviour.
For the reasons stated above, I am in favour of Nelson’s animal control bylaws especially when it come to dogs. I hear arguments to repeal the no dogs downtown bylaw. This would be a mistake as human health and safety would be further compromised.
In conclusion, I need to say that the city of Nelson has some responsibility as well. There is a dog control bylaw in place, but how can you expect to gain compliance from dog owners if you don’t enforce the bylaw? On many occasions I’ve seen a bylaw officer ignore blatant infractions of this law which encourages dog owners to continue their contrary behaviour knowing there will be no consequence. If you establish a law for any reason, you have to enforce that law in order to modify the law breakers behaviour to that of compliance.