If you have been paying attention to the letters submitted to the Star over the last few weeks, you’ll agree that the downtown dog ban is not an issue ready to retire. As it has been since the city painted the “no dogs allowed” signs on sidewalks 17 years ago, the debate is alive and well.
If there was an easy way out of this jam, the politicians at City Hall would have taken that path many years ago. The fact is, a simple solution does not exist.
As the discussion rolls along, one fact does become glaringly clear: our town is divided when it comes to dogs. If either side makes the claim that “a clear majority” favours one side or the other, they are simply wrong.
Over the past two years the Star has run a half dozen online polls about the issue as new developments arise. Every time the results are split down the middle (including last week’s poll which gave the no dogs in downtown side a slight edge).
In no way are we suggesting that our online polls are scientific or should be used as a base for public policy. They are simply a way to survey the thoughts of readers (you only get one vote per IP address, so there is no such thing stuffing the virtual ballot box). But they do provide one small tool in trying to sort out where people stand.
There are other measuring sticks. The letters we get on the issue (and there are more coming in future editions) provide insight on both sides. Even simple coffee shop talk usually provides an even split from both sides.
The no side has a hard time realizing the bond between humans and their four-legged friends. The yes side can’t seem to understand that many people are afraid of dogs, don’t like mutts smelling their bums and are not fond of stepping in poop. No politician will ever be able to bridge this divide.
Though people need to stop debating in absolutes, we do maintain council made a mistake by not allowing at least a trial basis this spring and summer. Only by providing an opportunity for both sides to see how a dog friendly downtown would play out can there ever be substantial evidence to point toward.