Town may ban dogs off leash in downtown Osoyoos
Town of Osoyoos council is leaning heavily to change its current dog control bylaw by introducing a provision that would make it illegal to have any dog off leash anywhere in the downtown core.
During last week’s council meeting, several members of council hinted they were in favour of introducing a provision to the current bylaw that would ban all dogs from the downtown core that weren’t on leashes and in full control of their owner.
“As far as I’m concerned, there should not be any dog off leash in our downtown at any time,” said Coun. Mike Plante.
Mayor Stu Wells agreed.
“I think council is in favour of having all dogs on a leash at all times (downtown),” he said.
Council discussed the dog bylaw issues only days after a longtime Osoyoos resident shared the story of his 16-year-old frail, mixed-breed arthritic dog being attacked by a pit bull on Main Street almost two weeks ago.
The pit bull, who was owned by a young Osoyoos woman, grabbed the frail dog, named PoopyBear, without warning by the neck and inflicted three puncture wounds. PoopyBear’s owner, Rick Deis, grabbed the pit bull by the neck and pulled it off and slammed it to the ground and held it there.
The pit bull was on a leash, but the leash was lying on the ground and the dog wasn’t under control, said Deis.
RCMP did not file charges after getting conflicting stories about the incident.
The female owner of the pit bull suggested PoopyBear initiated the conflict with the pit bull, something Deis says is laughable and not true.
At the beginning of the debate, Wells pointed out that Osoyoos is a town filled with dogs and responsible dog owners and any changes to the dog bylaw were sure to cause controversy and that’s why council is in favour of holding a public meeting in the near future before any permanent changes are made to existing laws.
“One of the pre-eminent issues in this town are dogs,” he said. “Whether it’s on leash or off leash or picking up after them … this is a big issue in our town and this is our (council) kick at it.”
The current Licensing and Control of Dogs bylaw adopted in 1997 states dogs are allowed in Gyro Park either on leashes or under the care and control of their owners, except for June, July and August – which coincides with the peak of tourist season. This means no dogs are allowed in the town’s busiest park from the beginning of June until the end of August.
For all other parks in town during the months of June, July and August, all dogs must be on leashes. For all other parks during the rest of the year from September to May, all dogs must be either on leashes or under the care and control of their owners.
The bylaw also states every dog owner must have proper care and control of his or her animal to prevent the animal from barking or making other excessive noise, molesting or chasing passersby on foot or otherwise, attacking humans or other domestic animals or damaging properties.
Council has designated a restricted swimming area for dogs on Osoyoos Lake near the north end of the Osoyoos Museum and it appears this area would allow dogs to continue to swim there, however, dog owners would immediately have to leash their pets as soon as they leave the water.
Coun. Sue McKortoff said she has seen dogs off leash in Gyro Park on more than one occasion, despite signs being posted warning dog owners to have them on leashes, and they are often confrontational when informed by a member of the public or bylaw officer that dogs are supposed to be on leashes at all time.
“They often take it as a personal affront,” she said.
Coun. C.J. Rhodes, who was a driving force to have the Osoyoos Dog Park opened last summer up near the tennis courts behind Osoyoos Secondary School, said this is the place where dog owners should be bringing their animals to let them run free.
“I’m very proud of this council for providing open space for dogs … our dog park is great,” said Rhodes.
Plante said the reality is there are so many dogs in Osoyoos running around off leashes, including many in the downtown core.
“Some people are afraid of dogs and that’s unfortunate,” he said. “A lot of people go down to Gyro Park for a picnic and they end up afraid because of dogs.”
There’s no reason to not have a dog on leash when there are a lot of people around and that’s the biggest reason he supports changing the bylaw to ensure all dogs are leashed at all times in any part of the downtown, said Plante.
Council is expected to discuss this issue and set a date for a public meeting on possible changes at its next meeting of council on June 16.