Off-leash etiquette a matter of respect, not entitlement

Far too many people allow their dogs to run off leash, and fail to clean up after them

This is an open letter for all members of our great community in Chilliwack. We owe a lot to various groups, people and individuals for the many wonderful and exciting things to do in this city of ours.

None more so than Island 22. This gorgeous wild area meandering along the banks of the Fraser River gives us a stunning opportunity to enjoy the best that nature has to offer – for everyone.

It’s with great pride that the members of the Fraser Valley Regional District and the members of the City of Chilliwack, have allowed us this opportunity to interact so intimately with nature in its many recreational offerings., such as the equestrian area, the boat launch and the magnificent dike that people can stroll or bike alongside the river throughout the year.

The regional district has even gone so far as to create a separated area for people with dogs, allowing them to roam as freely as we do, off leash.

And this brings me to my frustration.

The regional parks commission has created a fenced-off area for people with dogs to run free off-leash.

However, there are clearly marked signs posted all throughout the area, that dogs are to remain leashed up, when not accessing the off-leash area. There are also many signs posted around that state dog owners must clean up after their dogs when “nature calls”, so that other people who use the park aren’t accosted by free roaming dogs and side-stepping steaming piles of feces.

There are far too many people with dogs that take this for granted, and extort their self-entitlement to this area outside the off-leash park; allowing their dogs to race ahead of them and piling left-overs all around the trail. This is absolutely disrespectful to other users of the park, the regional and municipal members who have provided this area for everyone’s enjoyment, not to mention, nature herself.

On my regular hour-long walks along the trail, I come across a respectful few who actually do leash their animals in the park. And for that, to them, I am thankful. However, it’s the rest who feel that society should kowtow to them because they are who they are and they are allowed to let their dogs do what they want. Please understand, I myself, am a dog lover. Over the years I have come to appreciate the companionship of my fellow canines in life. Having said that, I also respected my fellow human companions by keeping my dogs close to me and under my guidance when in public.

Going further, dogs that are allowed to run through the park off-leash, are in actuality, doing damage to the environment. As I have witnessed many times in just the last week, dogs will race to the shoreline, jump down to the rivers edge to drink the cool waters. As they race back to the path to meet their owners, they have to claw their way up the five-foot embankment, causing copious amounts of material to fall into the river. There is a bright red sign and three bright orange cones that state “Failing Bank.” I’m sure the safety committee who erected the sign did so not because they had some left over material and nothing better to do with their time, rather there is an inherent danger in the degradation of the dike.

Dogs, by nature, are predatory and opportunistic hunters. We believe, in our delusion through our domestication of them, that they are harmless creatures that “wouldn’t hurt anybody.” To believe this, is to believe in your own undoing. Let’s recall in recent news, the innocent young child that was shamefully attacked by the neighbour’s dog that “has never done anything like that before.”

As this is a wild habitat, there are many animals that call this their home. To let your dogs roam freely on their own, is to put nature and its animals in undue and unnecessary harm. Birds (often times the great eagles) forage this area for their survival. Dogs running around causes the prey for these birds, to seek cover and shelter. Imagine your food ducking for cover because of a dog; how would you feel?

I believe in this time, day and age, we must show more compassion and respect to each-other; rather than exercising our self delusional sense of entitlement. Please, respect yourselves, and others, and keep your dogs on a leash, and clean up after them. The consequences are that the regional district may restrict or even revoke our privileges to this area. In the least, the governments may decide, if we cannot police ourselves, than they must do it for us. If that’s the case, I am more than willing to volunteer for this position.

Steve Voteary,

Chilliwack

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