Dog poop is still being disposed of incorrectly in public spaces, despite the District of Metchosin enacting its new Animal Control Bylaw.
In the heat of the summer, Metchosin resident Pattie Whitehouse was walking along Taylor Beach with her volunteer group, picking up garbage, including dog feces.
As a dog owner, Whitehouse was mortified and “disgusted” with how much excrement was not disposed of properly.
“People had just left the poop behind and other incidents where they buried it in the gravel, which isn’t useful,” said a revolted Whitehouse. “Bagging it is great, but leaving the bags all over the place, sometimes in parking lots, or sometimes on logs, but not taking responsibility for disposing of it.”
On Oct. 23, Metchosin council unanimously approved their new Animal Control Bylaw. Under section 31, the bylaw states that “the owner or handler of a dog must ensure that when the dog defecates in a public place, the handler of the dog will immediately remove the excrement and retain it until disposing of it in a suitable container.”
Similar bylaws have been implicated in other areas of Greater Victoria, but some elements are a first for Metchosin. If Metchosin residents fail to abide by the bylaw, they could receive a hefty fine.
“The dog poop issue is just one part of a larger issue of situations where dog handlers and their dogs and humans come into conflict,” said Whitehouse.
“One of the new things and most important things in the Metchosin bylaw is the definition of under control. Which allows dogs to be off leash in public places provided they’re under control according to the definition,” said Whitehouse. “If people don’t pick up after the dogs, the dogs theoretically could be banned from the beach altogether, which would restrict us from places.”
The definition in the bylaw specifies when handling a dog while in a public space, the dog must be held by a leash unless under certain circumstances. When dogs are off-leash, the dog may not approach other users of the public space, of any species without permission, the dog returns immediately to the handler when it’s called, the dog is always within the handler’s sight, and the dog does not chase wildlife or livestock.
According to Metchosin Coun. Shelly Donaldson, the conflict of keeping dogs and livestock under control is the reason the council decided to recreate the bylaw.
“Sheep were being run down by dogs that were running loose. It was a kind of an ongoing thing,” said Donaldson. For six months, a working group was tasked with rewriting the old bylaw. She said that there were “a lot of definitions that needed to be reworked.”
According to Donaldson, “people are putting it (feces) in dog bags, but leaving the dog bags behind, whether they hang it on trees or put it on logs on the beach or on the ground anywhere. So the challenge we’re finding now is people actually not taking it with them.”
To help people dispose of feces properly, Metchosin has put up signage and canisters on its beaches and trails.
“If people are not responsible about their dogs, then there are complaints about people who object to, for example, stepping in poop. Which results in restrictions put on the places or the means by which you can walk your dogs,” said Whitehouse. “If we are responsible about our dogs, then we retain the rights and freedoms that we have right now. If we are not responsible and impinge on other people’s ability to enjoy the trails and beaches, we will lose some.”