Dear Kitsilano Dog Owners

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Dear Dog Owners,

Photo credit: TheThunderbird.ca

Just about every day now that spring is here, as I walk my 3 year old daughter along Kits beach, we encounter dogs running around WITHOUT a leash in the “leash on” areas. These are not stray dogs. The owners are always close by so when they see my daughter bolting into my arms, the owner inevitably reassures me that THEIR dog is used to children, loves children, wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, three such “friendly dogs” killed a six year old boy in the Hungarian village of Noszlop yesterday. The news report goes on to say that no one in the village understands how such a tragedy could have happened.

“Those dogs were always so friendly …”. Maybe they were… until yesterday.

It’s been a few years now, but I’ll never forget the time we visited friends just as my friend’s friend popped in on her way home from hospital to cry her eyes out because her daughter had just been bitten in the face by a passing dog.  He was not on a leash. She was a mother and actress, and this “accident” probably curtailed the possibility that her daughter would follow in her mother’s footsteps. The dog’s owner couldn’t understand it. Up until that day, his dog had never hurt a fly.

So… to all you dog owners out here in beautiful Kitsilano, and don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and have had three myself in the past, I ask you, even beg you to keep your dogs on a leash as the bylaws and signs clearly state in the “leash on” areas. Your dogs have the run of the BEST beach in Kitsilano over by the Maritime Museum, so there’s really no excuse. Study the sign and notice where the “leash-off” area begins, because then you’ll see it’s not over by the parking lot.

I understand that you just want to give your furry family member the freedom he deserves. I want the same for my non-fury family member. And I know YOU trust your dog. But I don’t. My experiences have convinced me that dogs do not always respond in a friendly manner toward children and that their future behaviour cannot be predicted based on past behaviour.

Dogs are, after all, animals and animals seem to sense fear from a distance, which seems to provoke aggressive behaviour in some. Whatever the reason, I’ve had to hold my daughter over my head to keep various dogs from jumping on her and this was not just once. So here I am writing this.

We love Kits beach and would like to continue loving it without being sniffed, harassed or pounced on by your dog. So please keep your dog on a leash in the “leash on” areas.  In return, I promise not to yell at you or kick sand at your dog’s face when he gets too close for comfort.  It’s simple really – mutual respect breeds harmonious co-existence.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

A concerned father

Last modified: May 10, 2011

17 Responses to " Dear Kitsilano Dog Owners "

  1. sookie says:

    Wish I could bring my dog there but he is too little to play with the big dogs and would probably have his head bitten off (believe me I’ve heard stories). And frankly after dark it’s kind of a freaky beach to go down to by oneself. Sadly, this the only stretch of beach Im aware dogs are allowed at. Jericho and Spanish Banks are not friendly at all. I think we need more areas (fenced in too perhaps) like this so there isn’t such a jam.
    I’ve taken ur opinion into consideration, but don’t make it seem like we’re a lucky bunch because there’s one beach with a few odd hours we’re allowed to go to. There are probably more people in Kits that have dogs than have kids after all, and no one restricts where ur allowed to go.

  2. Dan says:

    Thank you kitsilano.ca for posting this. I hope dog owners don’t start making a fuss about someone having the audacity to criticise them. They have no leg to stand on as they’re clearly breaking a bylaw.

    Not only is the risk that someone (or someone’s child) will be bitten, but that a child playing in the sand will come across a turd left behind by a dog off the leash that its owner didn’t notice laying a huge steaming log. People get diseases and can go blind from your dog’s shit. Clean it up, and put it on a leash. This is not a debate!

    (By the way, Roman: by fury, I think you mean furry)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Agree 100%

  4. christine says:

    I would like to extend this invitation to all of Vancouver, BC, the whole country. Keeping your dog on a leash is simply being courteous and considerate.

  5. Ian says:

    Great letter. In Kits it’s rare to see a dog actually on-leash, regardless of the area.

  6. Roman says:

    Not only did I mean “furry” and not “fury” (I’m so embarrassed:-), but I meant “But” and not “Nut”. Sorry, it’s my first blog ever and I rewrote it so many times, my own words blinded me. Thanks for reading it.

  7. max ernst says:

    +1

  8. Kristeb says:

    Great post. I have a puppy who I love to bits, and it drives me nuts when I’m walking her on leash only to have a “friendly” unleashed dog run up and get vicious with her. She is free to play at the amazing off leash beach near the maritime museum and when we’re not there she’s leashed – her safety and others, not to mention it’s a bylaw. An old friends dog attacked another friend twice on separate occasions – both times we heard “oh goodness, thats never happened before!” On the other hand some parents need to be reminded that they need to ask before petting a strange dog and not to let their kids pounce on it.

    Great post!

  9. Mark says:

    Good letter Roman. Just one comment about your reference to the Hungarian tragedy. There is no such thing as a “friendly” dog in a Hungarian village. Trust me, I saw many. They are trained to protect property and crops, beaten and chained to amplify their aggresivity. We are much safer around these spoiled furry friends in Kitsilano. Bad thinks happen here too, but statistics would confirm that work stress, drunken drivers, etc… are our biger enemies, ruining more families.

  10. sookie says:

    PS. My dog has a collapsed trachea and actually can’t be on-leash. It’s not a one-size fits all solution…one random dog park.

  11. Bryan says:

    I would love to see a discussion for dog owners and city residents about whether the current off-leash park system is working. I’m wondering what the root of the problem is here, why so many owners seem to have their dogs off leash.

    And I’d like to say I agree that dog owners should respect the by-laws or possibly face fines. When you park your car and go over the meter you’ve violated a by-law and often you get a ticket for it; so almost everyone is guilty of violating one or more by-laws but enforcement is different.

    I would like to take issue with the style of writing in this article. It seems very unfair to relate the killing of child in Hungary the off leash problems in Kitsilano. Also the anecdote about a child who being bitten in the face is not verifiable enough for me to feel like off-leash was the problem. What happened to that dog and it’s owners?

    I’d like to ask that you write another article with clear facts and statistics about Vancouver and Kitsilano dogs and dog owners. How many dog bites have been reported in the area. How many registered dogs exist in the area. How many dog parks, on/off leash.

    There are lots of ways I would suggest approaching this topic. I’m upset that you took the route of trying to suggest dogs in Kitsilano are going to kill children just like in Hungary; the situations are worlds apart. I don’t think this fair or accurate writing but I understand that you’re upset about the issue.

  12. Roman says:

    Thanks for everyone’s comments. I would like to reply to Bryan as he posed many provocative questions. First of all, I am not a journalist. I’m just a stay-at-home dad responsible for the education, play and safety of one 3 year old girl who loves to make sand castles on Kits beach, pick up chestnuts in Kits park and throw rocks into English Bay. She’s also come to be afraid of dogs, partly because we don’t have a dog at home so animals are both a source of fascination and fear and she has yet to learn how to judge a real threat from what is just a nuisance. Secondly, my daughter has had several experiences (maybe 5) where dogs pounced on her from behind while she was playing in the sand (admittedly, these were small dogs so I wasn’t worried about them getting close. Still, my daughter was terrified, abandoned her play and ran into my arms) and then there were two instances where I had to hold her above my head while a large dog jumped around us, barking. It’s these last two incidents that really annoyed me as I can only imagine the worst had I not taken quick action to protect her. Of course, the dog owners apologized profusely, while I just went home, fuming. Hence, my blog post.

    I simply believe my daughter and I should not be threatened liked that in a public park by someone’s large dog. I realize that only a small percentage of dogs may pose a real threat, but try explaining that to a 3 year old. The point is that the by-laws are designed to enable harmonious co-existence of dog owners, parents and children and every one else who wishes to share the same city space. If dog owners think the by-laws unfair or too restricting, they should petition to have them changed and not just ignore them at the expense of children who’s right to FEEL safe, in my humble opinion, should be given priority over a dog owner’s desire to bestow freedom of movement upon his furry friend. So…while I don’t plan on embarking on a crusade or clarifying facts or collecting statistics, I thought I’d voice my personal opinion about a perceived danger and source of potential conflict on Kits beach in the hope that the Hungarian incident will never happen here. I thought that’s what blogs like Kitsilano.ca are for.

  13. Bill Barilko says:

    I have no dog in this race but……

    The blogger refuses to see that the example he used- half starved/brutalised canines used to defend a village yards/farms-has no counterpart in a city setting the situations are in no way similar-an unfortunate choice of his part.

    As to Kits Beach there’s a bit of politics involved-dog laws aren’t rigorously enforced from Labour Day to May 24 weekend-it takes some calling to have anyone show up at all and citizen dog owners know this so aren’t particularly religious about observing bylaws during that time.

    After the May Long Weekend any/all calls will draw a formerly reluctant dog catcher down to do his job and the situation changes.

    Also-rules differ for the dog beach by the Maritime Museum- newbies ‘n the hood often have the beaches mixed up and don’t differentiate between one and the other.

    As to the person who said it was unusual to see on a dog on leash-that is Bee Ess-I live on the route tot the dog beach and unleashed dogs are an exception.

  14. Lynda says:

    I agree that dog owners should respect the laws put in place, however, I can’t really fully blame them either. As a dog owner, I can tell you that there are nowhere near enough dog parks/beaches/areas in Vancouver. I’m sure it’s tempting to push the boundaries of where your dog is allowed when every dog in Vancouver is crammed into the only decent space they’re permitted.

    I live in the Kerrisdale area, and I literally have to drive 15 minutes away just to get somewhere I can let my dog off leash (excluding the unfenced park next to the 41st/Larch intersection — terrible idea!)

    I know that one of the only places I can take my dog is Kits beach, and I feel like everyone in the West Side is thinking that too for the most part. It doesn’t shock me that people move beyond the boundaries provided. Vancouver needs to step it up and realize that if they cram all the dogs into one or two areas, accidents are going to happen! We need more dog-permitted FENCED areas!

  15. Traysea says:

    Studies show that 99% of children that get bit by dogs either own the dog or know the dog. Dog owners should not let their dogs run up to any children and parents should not let their children run up to my dogs all the time. It is shocking that they would let their 2-3 yr old child come charging up to my german shepherd and when I tell them that they should not let their kids do this, that it scares dogs they look at me like Im being rude, one mother actually said to me “what your dog doesn’t like kids” I was stunned.

    It sounds like you should be teaching your child to be a little more brave though and not freaking out every time she sees a dog. Don’t blame dog owners for your fears- supervise your child. There is 2100+ dogs living in kits and they can’t all fit in that one off leash area and dog owners i know don’t let their dogs run up to children – its a liability issue so you may want to relax a bit and then your kid would too

  16. Kay Barton says:

    Great post.
    Completely agree 100%
    Dog owners, use the designated off-leash area. It is the law.
    Every dog I see (not just off-leash) on Kits main beach I always call in to pound control. I would advise other parents to be pro-active and do the same, their phone number is clearly displayed on the sign which states that the beach is a no-dog area.

  17. Kits Point says:

    Clean up after your dogs and keep them on a leash.that’s the law so do it!!!