June 26, 1998 Halifax Herald

Point Pleasant: protect people from pet peeves

The rights of pet owners and other citizens who use public parks must be fairly balanced when Halifax Regional Council implements a uniform pet-control by law. As cats and dogs top the list of animals covered by the law, I'll restrict my comments to the control of these pets and to the rules needed to regulate the exercising of dogs in the park I'm most familiar with, Point Pleasant.

Several years ago, after I was diagnosed with incurable osteoarthritis, doctors advised that, in order to control the disease and to retain mobility, I had to get off my butt and exercise. Therefore, most days for the past three years or so, I've walked three kilometers or more in Point Pleasant Park. I've enjoyed the natural environment and have had the pleasure of exchanging friendly greetings with many fellow park users. Overall, its been a very pleasant experience.

However, I've seen in action more than a fair share of dog-owner ignoramuses. They have no regard for anyone. With a kiss-my-butt attitude, often in full view of park staff or cops, they arrogantly walk their dogs in off-limit areas and leave dog droppings for others to step in or clean up. Besides making a mess of shoes, this also raises a health hazard. Animal droppings can spread many diseases to people and animals who come in contact with them.

I hasten to mention that the vast majority of dog owners are very conscientious about their obligations to other park users; the bad ones create a problem for all.

The prime reason for the creation of parks is for human enjoyment. Thus, many different types of parks - nature, picnic, etc. - have been set aside. Dogs and other pets are barred from some and restricted others, but some are wide open to them. The pets most involved in park use are dogs. Some people love them and are willing to tolerate their many idiosyncrasies; others detest them and are fearful in their presence. I'm in the first category.

Our home, at different times, was blessed with the company of two dogs who had very different dispositions. Our first, Max, a malamute husky, was not always controllable and was perfectly equipped to chew off the butt of any human or animal he didn't like. He ate anything in sight and threatened anyone who approached him when doing so. Our last, a small Peke-a-Poo named Barney, was not always controllable either. In fits of anger, he managed to take a nip or two out of everyone in the house.

That said for our dogs can be said for all dogs. By nature, they are pack animals and thus occasionally feel an urge to fight to maintain status in the pack. Also, most become very protective of the humans who they view as fellow pack members. As a result, they will attack, sometimes with little provocation, anyone or anything they view as a threat to a member of their pack.

Max, half wolf, was a large dog whose appearance was enough to make the knees of anyone who feared dogs shake with terror. During my park walks, I've seen many such dogs running loose. Thus, dog fights are not rare. And I've seen dogs threatening to attack people, including myself. Its just short of a miracle that someone, especially a small child, hasn't suffered a major injury or death because of the situation. Related to dog threats, I've seen people terrified. In one incident, a little girl was so scared she wet her pants. This, my friends, is not what parks are for.

Because of incidents such as the before-mentioned, this question begs an answer: Should dogs be barred from Point Pleasant and other parks? My gut reaction is: No. But, to make parks safe for small children and those who fear dogs, a compromise must be found. My suggestion for Point Pleasant: From 6 am to noon and from 10 pm to midnight, the park would be open for dog owners to exercise their animals. From noon to 10 pm, the park would be opened To people only. And the fines for non-compliance with legal requirements to clean up dog droppings, or for walking them in a restricted area, etc., should be increased to at least $500 and be strictly enforced.

Barring dogs during the hours mentioned would enable those who are terrified of them to enjoy the beauty of the entire park. Itís unacceptable that dogs can enjoy, with some limitations, the entire park while people in fear of them can only enjoy the areas where dogs are off-limit between 10am and midnight.

While pondering the contents of the new bylaw, council must also consider a means to control cats. While doing so, they should keep in mind that only farm cats need run loose. All others should be kept in-house or in an outdoor pen during warmer months. Many birds and wild animals are needlessly killed or injured by domestic cats. Further, gardens are often ruined by them. Gardeners work hard to grow crops to feed us and flowers to brighten our lives. A cat can wreck much of their hard work in a matter of minutes.

Cat owners have a responsibility to prevent them from damaging the property of others. When such is not done voluntary, a bylaw must have the power to force owners to accept responsibility.

Daniel N. Paul


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