Higher fines of up to $1,000 could soon be slapped on dog owners who let their hounds break the rules in Metro Vancouver’s regional parks.
The regional district’s board will vote on proposed bylaw changes at the end of this month, which are to apply in Metro’s 22 regional parks, such as Tynehead in Surrey, Campbell Valley in Langley and Pacific Spirit in Vancouver, but not municipal parks.
The aim is to crack down on aggressive and dangerous dogs that pose a risk to people and other pooches.
Park officers will be empowered to order owners to muzzle or leash an out-of-control or dangerous dog, or remove it or ban it altogether – owners who refuse could be fined $1,000.
An unleashed dog or one caught in a no-dog area can trigger a $500 fine, while failing to pick up your dog’s droppings can set you back $250.
Officials say those are maximum penalties that would be applied in extreme cases and officers are likely to stress education and warnings first.
“In my personal opinion, I think they should be fined right away,” said Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin, vice-chair of Metro Vancouver’s environment and parks committee. “It’s long overdue.”
Many parks already have off-leash fenced dog zones but Metro is also defining trails in some parks where dogs will also be allowed off-leash.
Some leash-optional trails are to be included in Capilano River, Lynn Headwaters and Iona Beach regional parks, while the rest of the trails would either require leashes or ban dogs altogether.
“We’re trying to make everybody happy,” Martin said.
The region rejected demands from some wildlife watchers who wanted to ban dogs altogether from Iona Beach, a major migratory bird stopover.
Martin said people who don’t want to encounter dogs running off leash should avoid the leash-optional trails in those parks.
She said owners will now be expected to ensure their dogs behave appropriately in off-leash areas or face enforcement from parks staff.
It’s hoped that will rein in the chaotic anything-goes dog interactions in off-leash areas, but Martin conceded that will depend on adequate enforcement.
Other bad behaviour in parks will also come with higher fines, which are five to 10 times higher than the old ones.
Smoking, damaging park property, setting off fireworks and dumping garbage are among the offences that can also trigger fines of up to $1,000.
Liquor consumption, being in a park after hours or creating undue noise or disturbance is worth $500.
The bylaw also gives staff the ability to restrict the emerging use of long boards, kite boards, electric bicycles, as well as the projected rise in motorized wheelchairs, in the name of public safety.
Metro officials say they get a mix of public complaints – from those who fear aggressive dogs as well as owners demanding more dog-dedicated park space.