Friday, July 06, 2007

News from Dog-Walker Central

Well, I go away for a couple of weeks and events of world-shattering importance take place here in Toronto. I'm talking of course about the People, Dogs and Parks Off-Leash Policy, which is supposed to take force in 2008 at a cost of $1.6 million (which Toronto doesn't have).
Living as we do in the Beaches area of Toronto (Dog-Walkers Central), dogs have always been at the forefront of local discussion, and I would say that, in any given week, at least two-thirds of the letters section of the our local paper is given over to ongoing diatribes between the opposing factions.
As one cynical observer at the negotiations noted: "If you can solve dog problems, you can fix the Middle East".
Now, we don't have a dog (although we do have a cat - I believe there is a local by-law here in the Beaches stipulating that residents must own at least one or the other), and I am not a big fan of dogs. Noisy, smelly, boisterous things. But I understand that dogs like to run free, and so the concept of leash-free areas in parks makes sense to me.
The new policy will add several more - say a dozen - to Toronto's current 32 off-leash dog areas, of which two are on our beach. All of which doesn't sound too revolutionary to me.
And, to placate the anti-dog lobby, 10 more by-law officers will be hired to reinforce the current 11 beleaguered officers who are supposed to be patrolling Toronto's 1,470 parks. There is a $125 fine for failing to have a dog on a leash, and a $365 fine for a dog running in a non-designated area (I'm not really sure what the difference is).
Again, a sensible carrot-and-stick approach, I would have thought, although I have very limited expectations as to the efficacy of said by-law officers, which I suspect is just tax-payers' money down the drain.
Of course, some dog-owners are more responsible than others, but most are still a breed apart, and most have an implicit belief that everyone loves Sasha and Buddy just as much as they do, whatever their behaviour, and that the draconian laws preventing Walnut from romping wild don't really apply to them, because after all he's such a little cutie.
I am not expecting much to change as a result of all this. I am still expecting to see dogs running riot in the park outside my window, while their owners sip their take-out lattes and gesticulate into their cell-phones, blithely oblivious to their Schnauzer depositing little packages in the playground, and their hulking Great Dane gallumphing up to small children in expectation of a warm welcome.

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