Should the “City of the Arts” become the “City of Barks”?
While that’s not exactly Haven Lurbiecki’s intent, the member of Port Moody’s parks and recreation commission says making the city more dog-friendly would bring tremendous benefits to its two-legged residents as well as those with four legs.
Lurbiecki recently led a sub-group of the commission, along with Wilhelmina Martin and Megan Traverse, that looked at issues around the growing rates of dog ownership in the city and ways to manage them to create a better environment for the dogs, as well as their people — and even residents without dogs.
Among its recommendations are:
• using community engagement and data analysis to determine the needs of dog owners
• creating a new classification of park as dog park that would better define where dogs must be on a leash and where they can run free, as well as establishing guidelines for things like dog waste containers, seating, water, drainage and buffer zones from neighbouring houses or school grounds
• improving the existing off-leash areas at Rocky Point, Chines and Bert Flinn parks as well as identify other locations for new, fenced dog parks, especially in neighbourhoods that are more than a 15-minute walk from one of the existing spots
• expanding the red bin program to collect dog waste
• putting some of the money collected from dog licensing fees toward improving off-leash parks in the city, allowing owners to automatically renew their dog licenses as well as creating an incentive program for people to license their dogs in the first place
• improving signage at dog parks that better explains the rules and responsibilities of dog owners as well as the areas’ boundaries
Lurbiecki said clearly defining the role of dog owners in the city, as well as improving facilities where they can get out with their pooch, will make life better for everyone.
“It impacts all residents,” she said. “Even if you don’t have a dog, you can be confident people will follow the rules.”
Lurbiecki said while there’s always been a bit of tension between dog owners and those without, it’s been brought to a head in the past year as the ranks of the former increased with more people adopting four-legged friends to help get them through the social isolation of pandemic lockdowns.
She herself rescued Ace, who was one of several neglected dogs found at a home in Langley.
Lurbiecki said bad interactions with dogs and dog owners are often a consequence of insufficient facilities or a poor understanding of the rules. And problems that aren’t addressed will only get worse as Port Moody grows with more people and more dogs straining existing parks and dog runs.
“We’re at a precipice that now is the time to prioritize this issue,” she said. “We have to take a more holistic approach to animal welfare.”
At a recent council meeting where Lurbiecki presented her group’s report, Coun. Diana Dilworth pointed to ongoing concerns about the proper collection and disposal of dog waste, stating the city needs to find ways to step up its placement of special red bins where dog owners can deposit their canine’s droppings.
“It is astounding how much waste is collected in our red bins,” she said. “We’re at a point now where we should be negotiating with builders to sign on to the red bin program.”
Lurbiecki said education should be an important component of any new dog strategy for Port Moody, not only for dog owners but also for residents without pets.
“Two-way communication is critical,” she said. “The city needs to take this seriously.”
Council will continue to discuss Lurbiecki’s report at a future meeting.