Dogs allowed off-leash on beaches

Pooches will permitted off lead at Kew-Balmy and Woodbine beaches
This trial run will be only during winter months and needs city approval
Parks committee approved compromise today

By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 15 for Town Crier.)

Chris Yaccato, left, with Boo and Diane McConnell with Callie asked the city for a compromise policy for dogs on the beach.

After a battle with the city, a compromise has been struck to allow dogs on beaches in the winter months.
Councillor Sandra Bussin hashed out a compromise that was endorsed unanimously at the Parks and Environment Committee on Oct. 15.
For two beaches at Woodbine and Kew-Balmy, dog owners will be allowed to let their pooches run free off-leash between Nov. 1 to March 31 for a trail run.
In the summer, the dogs won’t be allowed on these beaches either on or off a lead but instead will be relegated to existing nearby off-leash dog parks at Silverbirch and Kew Gardens.

This exception is for the beach community only.
“I’m very happy. It’s the right solution and we’ll review it in a year if it isn’t,” Bussin said after the vote at the committee level. “It’s been going that way for a long time and I think it works for ward 32.”
“I think it’s a very workable solutions for one of dog populations in the City of Toronto,” said the Beaches-East York councillor.
City staff made a presentation and wrote a report stated that there are more dogs per capita than in any other part of the city, although they didn’t present specific stats.
For years, dog were allowed to run off-leash at Kew-Balmy and Woodbine beaches but that changed in 2007 when the city adopted a new off-leash dog policy.
As well, the municipal government wanted to increase the number of Blue Flag beaches and adopted a stance that dogs running off leash would not help keep the water quality up to standards.
While dog feces in the water or on the sand being washed up into the lake is an issue, it is not the main contributing factor to contamination, city staff said. Geese droppings, untreated sewage dumped into the lake during storms and pollution run-off from the streets during rainfall are the main problems.
Chris Yaccato, co-chair of Toronto’s Beaches Dog Association was happy his community was granted an off-leash exception during the winter.
“We have been advocating that since day one,” he said Oct. 15. “We are certainly pleased the committee heard us out and agreed to a compromise.”
“We want to show and prove we are responsible dog owners,” he said.
So his group will continue to have volunteers pick up dog waste left by “irresponsible” dog owners.
The off-leash option is not being offered to communities at other city beaches. At nine other swimmable beaches: four on the Toronto islands plus Cherry, Marie Curtis East, Sunnyside, Bluffer’s and Rouge dogs will be allowed on-leash only during the winter months of Nov. 1 to March 31.
Currently, dogs are allowed on-leash year round at Marie Curtis East, Sunnyside, Bluffer’s and Rouge beaches so this new policy represents a loss of the summer months for these locations.
This strategy still needs to be approved by city council when it meets Oct. 26-27.

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