Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I'm a dog owner. I'm a citizen of my city. Give me my rights.

Toronto city council, an organization that thought by banning legal gun clubs that have existed in this city for a hundred years would stop gangsters from shooting each other, has had yet another stroke of brilliance: Let's ban dogs, leashed or otherwise, from the most popular beaches in the city.

The whole thing has to do with Toronto wanting to acquire a "blue flag" designation of environmental cleanliness for its beaches. I have yet to determine if this designation really means much in the way of pollution but since its international, and people will read about us in the press, city council has a hard on because now the rest of the world, to paraphrase Sally Fields, will "like us, they really really like us" They have yet to study the issue if dogs on the beach, if dog feces, will affect them getting this blue flag, they will get to that study some day but in the mean time, with no clear evidence to support their thesis they are denying me, as a dog owner, my rights to use a public space.

It really is an amazing thing. Anyone who has ever been to the area in Toronto called The Beaches knows the popularity of this area to dog owners; on a weekend hundreds of dogs will amble along the beach. I know people who have moved there because it has always been known as a "dog friendly" area. And yes, there is an issue with people not picking up their dog shit, I've posted several times about that, but the fact is, all these people who go to the beach with their dog .. ARE CITIZENS OF THIS CITY AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED EQUALLY.

Sorry, I'm trying to shout from North York down to City Hall

Two years ago they started posting that dogs were no longer allowed on the beaches, even on a leash, outside of the two designated off leash areas, those being Balmy Beach and Kew Beach. Fair enough, I guess. Dogs had been allowed on leash in those areas before but since the two off leashes are pretty big, I was OK with what I thought was a compromise. And in the winter, dogs have always been allowed off leash on the beaches from the snow fence down to the water line. Now that is all gone.

I quite frankly don't buy the environmental concerns, mostly because it has yet to be proven. The city and the province can't seem to be able to come up with anything conclusive that proves that having dogs on the beaches is a hazard to any one's safety as it relates to the water. Everyone is pulling out the old "we have to think about the kids" argument which is bullshit in this instance. We are supposedly talking about water purity; to me, when they bring up child safety the agenda seems more oriented to safety, to dogs being out of control. Fair enough, I've blogged about that as well, there are too many owners in this town who do not have control over their dogs and we need to address that .. but be honest about it, don't hide it behind the environment.

So we have this dubious argument, that cannot be proven,and this action, of banning dogs from the beaches, that no one outside of this city seems to support. And that seems to be a good enough excuse to take away my rights, because that is really what we are talking about: my rights, the rights of every dog owner. These are PUBLIC lands, to be used by the PUBLIC in any legal fashion, and now I am being denied those rights. It is simply a case where our elected leaders are deciding who gets to use the beach. Yes, you can say I can still use the beach, just don't bring my dog ... well, that is why we go there. We don't go there to swim, the lake is usually too cold and its been dirty a long time, and not just from e coli, but from general pollution. We don't play volleyball and we don't lay around getting skin cancer .. we go to play with Miss Hayley. Isn't that my right? We've always followed the rules .. pick up the poop, keep her on leash in the on leash areas, monitor and control her behaviour in the off leash, avoid heavy traffic areas .. because the rules made sense. This does not make sense.

I want to keep this post brief and to the point. Here it is: Dog owners are being denied rights they once held and I think it is unfair. Surely, city council should wait until they have completed the study that will tell me what, if any impact, having dogs on the beach will have on the Blue Flag label. And surely, they should have waited until more people in this city have had their say; this is just not an issue for the Beaches neighbourhood, it is an issue for all dog owners in the city, many of whom travel some significant distances just to enjoy the beach.

This is a call to arms. If you are in the GTA contact your local councillor and ask him/her how they can deny certain citizens of this city the right to enjoy a public space. Contact Councillor Paula Fletcher, chair of the parks committee who defends this action; ask her how an elected official can so blithely deny rights to thousands and thousands of city residents. If you are not in the GTA contact the provincial gov't and your local councillor, this is not just a Toronto issue. While in Parry Sound a bylaw officer told me that dogs were not allowed on the beach for this very issue .. so you and your dog, or your friends who have dogs, are being denied enjoyment of public spaces to indulge an unproven political whim.

This strikes me as very arbitrary and that is very scary. Think about it; the politicians who are supposed to represent YOU are now denying ME the use of PUBLIC space that I PAY for because it MAY have some kind of detrimental effect on .. um .. something ...

I'm pissed off. I want you to be pissed off too. Miss Hayley is not pissed off. But look at this video and you will understand, that if she can again go back to that beach, she will just be very sad.


Fenway said...

They do not understand the CLEAN and FUN can go hand-in-hand.

And there's no fun where there are no dogs allowed.

Victor Kellar said...

It's all just politics, I would say that the geese, not to mention all the people, not to mention all teh industry around the lake, contributes more pollution than those irresponsible owners who don't pic up after their dogs

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