February 28th, 2024

City says it’s likely to reduce off-leash areas

By COLLIN GALLANT on July 12, 2022.

Trinity Wikjord and her dog Jody enjoy the sunshine at the Saratoga Park Park on Monday afternoon.--News photo Collin Gallant


It’s about 50-50 in public opinion on whether the city should expand or shrink the number of off-leash dog areas in Medicine Hat, according to survey results given this spring to the parks department, which is studying the issue.

In practical terms however, members of the city’s public services committee heard Monday that the total number of such areas will likely decrease in order to protect ecologically sensitive areas and reduce potential conflicts.

Currently in Medicine Hat all environmental reserve – such as coulees and natural grassland that is not necessarily an official park – are denoted as space where dog owners can let their animals run freely while under general control.

But that has created some conflict and complaint over the years with trail users and over pedestrians.

On Monday, parks staff reported that outreach this spring resulted in 51 per cent of respondents saying the city should put further restrictions on where dogs can go leash-less, while 49 per cent say rules should be expanded.

The information was gathered through several open houses as well as feedback on the ShapeMyCity website, where the findings are published. A public awareness campaign has also been staged by the department.

“We’re probably going to see off-leash areas reduced, but to what extend we don’t know yet,” said representatives from EDS, a consultation that helped the city department stage information sessions this year and collated feedback.

“The No. 1 key thing is eliminating off-leash in environmentally sensitive areas, then find incident hot spots.”

The survey asked Hatters to include their favourite off-leash dog walking areas, as well as areas were they thought restrictions were needed. Also provided were some general principles about on versus off leash, such as the opinions of near park space, traffic, or sports grounds.

Generally, Hatters felt the rules were poorly explained and poorly enforced.

The department is finalizing policy changes that will be presented to council this summer or early fall for adoption.

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