Deanne Peterson of DREAM
New group aims to educate dog owners
Deanne Peterson says the genesis for “Dog Rescue, Education & Advocacy of Manitoba” came from what people in the rescue community see all too often: too many dogs, and not enough responsible owners.
She is one of six founders, all of whom have worked with rescue organizations, who saw a big gap in the community
“We are not a rescue,” she said. “We have so many rescues and so many dogs we need to get into rescues, but with all that time spent saving and rescuing the dogs, there’s not much time is left over to educate the people who are adopting the dogs, and the kids who are growing up to be dog owners in the future.
She said D.R.E.A.M. is about giving owners and their kids the tools to be responsible pet owners, like emphasizing the basics, like regular trips to the vet, and the need for the dog to get proper exercise and training.
She said many people think it’s ok for their dog to have one litter, for their kids’ sake.
And she said many rescue dogs come from strays up north.
“What we see in some of the remote communities is that people don’t see the dogs as pets,“ she said.
She said they are often seen simply as a nuisance roaming around the community.
The group is launching Saturday, June 22 with a “canine expo” at Four Points Sheraton South on Pembina.
Peterson says it was a tough call but no dogs are allowed so pet owners can go one-on-one with experts from vets to behaviourists to nutritionists. There are also door prizes and a silent auction.
You can learn more at http://dreamdogrescueblog.wordpress.com/
Kathleen Kirkman says the impetus for the bumper sticker campaign came out of threats to reduce the size of Kilcona Park’s off-leash area.Heather Vandenberg is worried about the future of Kilcona Park's off-leash area.
“We’re trying to rile up the troops,” she said.
Kirkman said it started with concerns the city was mulling over changes to make way for the 2017 Canada Summer Games.
She said Kilcona’s bumper sticker campaign is modelled on a successful Vancouver campaign to elect dog-friendly councillors.
“We want city hall to realize that we are non-passive,” she said.
“Dog owners are very passionate people….They’re very focused and ‘agenda’d, ‘“ she said. Kirkman cited the growing number of dog-owners in Winnipeg. “Maybe dogs are starting to replace kids as an option for some people, or they have both and they want to enjoy the outdoors with their kid as well as with their dog,” she said.
Growing political awareness among dog owners
Heather Vandenberg was among those who snapped up the bumper sticker at Kilcona Park Dog Club’s recent BBQ.
“I bought it because its true,” she said. Vandenberg said part of the reason is to support the dog club, but partly it’s out of concern for the park’s future.
“I really don’t make a big stink about everything, but when (there’s) talk about this beloved park of ours getting smaller and smaller, and it’s a place I’ve gone to probably every day, if not twice a day, for the last 12 years of my life, not only is it for my dogs, it’s for my own mental well-being,” she said. “I vote, and I’d like this park to stay.”
For Susan Argue, it’s about time dog owners became politically active.
“What I’m trying to say to Mr. Katz and company is, I want us taken into account,” she said.
Argue said the bumper sticker campaign is slowly starting to resonate with dog owners.
And there’s lots of time to spread the word before the next municipal election in the fall of 2014.
“I don’t want to see this park disappear,” she said. “It can become a big issue. “
A muddy future for Brenda Leipsic park?
Betty Whitman says the city’s plans to put a rapid transit corridor through the Parker Wetlands and Brenda Leipsic off-leash park where she and her black lab 'Chance' come practically every day, are unacceptable.Parker Wetlands Conservation rally, June 8.
“No, we need this park absolutely,” she said.
“Our back yard is not that big and my legs are not what they used to be. He’s in good shape because we play ‘chuck it’ and Frisbee. I’d be lost without this park,” she said.
Whitman said it’d be great, especially for the dogs, if there were an organized group to watch over the park.
“That would be awesome, somebody to stand up and speak for them. They don’t have a voice.”
An organized group is something River Heights-Fort Garry councillor John Orlikow would also like to see.
He said it could make all the difference.
“We do need advocacy if people want to keep this land green,” he said.
Orlikow said he hopes a rally last Saturday gets dog owners talking about organizing a group like Maple Grove Park Dog Owners’ Association, or the Kilcona Park Dog Club.
Brenda Leipsic, like other off-leash parks, in limboAsmara Polcyn of Winnipeg Woof Pack
“No one is telling us they don’t want the land. We need the dog park people to become engaged and take ownership of the land…help cleaning it up, maybe get some benches in there, that kind of stuff. We need to fence it, because there’s just too many trains going by. So we need to be looking at a whole bunch of things.”
He’s also planning to put up a park sign to encourage people to get involved.
“Absolutely. That’s what I’m hoping to accomplish out of this bulletin board,” he said.
Orlikow said the dog park, like others in the city such as Kilcona, and a popular but unofficial dog park in Charleswood, is “in limbo.”
He also welcomes proposed off-leash park guidelines that the city is currently reviewing internally, saying they will help the big picture conversation about off-leash areas in the city.
“We really don’t have a good policy and good direction on actually having proper dog parks, in my opinion,“ he said. “You go to other cities and you go ‘wow.’
We do need a vision and a strategy. It’s quite important to have these dog parks. If we don’t, what ends up happening … is people start using community centres and school fields, which is not the most appropriate place to have off-leash parks.”
Importance of park growing as other greenspace lost
Asmara Polcyn knows the Brenda Leipsic off-leash park intimately.
Probably “blade-of-grass-wise,” she laughs.
Polcyn is a dog trainer and lives nearby.
She says the dog park has recently become even more popular, and more important to dog owners, after they lost an informal off-leash area next to Argue Street when the Southwest Rapid Transit corridor was built. Now condos are going up there, too.
Polcyn said everyone migrated to Brenda Leipsic.
“So when we hear that this place too is now under threat, it’s devastating,” she said.
She too hopes some of those people organize to fight for the park, but she sounds a note of cynicism.
“I guess the optimistic are getting organized and the rest of us … have watched this money from city hall go to developers year after year after year and go into concrete and parking lots and more stores.”
She is however happy to hear the city is working on developing guidelines for off-leash areas overall.
“I’m glad that they’re talking about it because there’s a serious lack of facilities,” she said.
“The more opportunity these dogs have to meet other dogs and interact in polite and socially appropriate ways, the less kids we're going to have getting bitten in the face.”
Polcyn said she’s loosely involved with the Parker Wetlands Conservation group and is optimistic dogs and wetlands can co-exist.
Especially given the hydro wires that run above the green space.
“You know how we have power outages with all the geese flying into them? When you run geese off with dogs, generally they don’t come back for three days. So golf courses, other places, all these places could be employing off-leash dogs,” she said. “Dogs with jobs!”
Playing Frisbee at Maple Grove Park
Winnipeggers won't see what's in a consultant's report on guidelines for the development of off-leash parks until the fall, in spite of the fact the report was handed in in the spring.KPDC president Donna Henry and Hudson at Kilcona Park.
Donna Henry, president of the Kilcona Park Dog Club, says Winnipeg often points to Calgary as a model for off-leash parks.
Yet Calgary spent two years developing guidelines, and carried out extensive public consultations, she said.
"You need to involve people at the beginning of the process so you're actually getting their input," Henry, a former superintendent for Parks Canada in northern Manitoba and Yukon, said.
The guidelines are expected to rank parks according to their size and location, and will likely recommend what kinds of services and amenities, from garbage pick-up to picnic tables and bag dispensers to splash pads for dogs, should be available.
The consultant told the board of Maple Grove Park Dog Owners' Association that he had met with board members of Kilcona Park Dog Club as well, and had spoken with people at random as he walked through the city's off leash areas.
But Henry says dog clubs are just part of the picture. They have a special relationship with the city, for instance, organizing volunteers for annual park clean-ups.
Henry said there are dozens of other voices that should be heard, such as people who have dogs but don't use the parks, people with disabilities, even developers.
"For the city just to be consulting with seven people on our board, and the board of Maple Grove, and then having the consultant walk through the park and talk randomly to a few people...that makes a mockery of the whole public consultation process," she said.
Extensive public consultation not part of city's planColin Lang and Petey at Maple Grove.
The city says the consultant "was given direction for a limited public consultation... In other words, an extensive public consultation process was not contemplated or considered for this project nor it is being considered."
It said people will get to comment when the consultant's report goes to the Standing Policy Committee this fall.
Typically a report is made public just a few days before the committee meets and anyone wanting to comment must register.
Henry says that doesn't give people enough time. "When people go to a meeting in the fall and are presented with a fait accompli, 'Here's what we've done, here's our plan,' they haven't had a chance to see it before hand. They haven't had a chance to think about what the content is and to think about what works and what doesn't work for them. ...To come to the meeting, to hear what's in the plan and to be responding like that, that's completely unfair."
Colin Lang, co-chair of the Maple Grove Park Dog Owners' Association, said it's a good idea to have guidelines for off-leash parks but he is also critical of the way the city is going about it.
"The city should not do it unilaterally," he said. "The guidelines should be drawn up in consultation with the different stakeholders of the dog parks."
Lang said he's worried about what will happen in the fall.
"It's almost like they're drawing up the guidelines now and they're going to want us to rubber stamp them," he said.
Dog owners feel marginalized
Mathew Hobson says he and his wife have taken their two dogs, a yellow lab and collie cross, to three off-leash areas in the city. Their favourite is Maple Grove. But he's concerned there isn't more choice.
And he's not happy that people like himself aren't being consulted as off-leash guidelines are being drawn up.
"It doesn’t make any sense that they wouldn’t request input from people who are actually going to use the facilities," he said. "Obviously, the fact we don’t have a say till it’s already made, means there’s probably not very much chance of it changing... It just doesn’t make any sense they wouldn’t do the research ahead of time."
Hobson said pet owners are being left out.
"It seems to be somewhat discriminatory against pet owners and lead to a city where you’re not really all that pet friendly anymore."
Lang agrees. He said the city should look at dog walking as a legitimate activity, like football, or rugby, and get the same kind of respect.
"You've got a group of people out here, all ages, all the way up to the 80's and 90's, come out here with their dogs," he said. "I know when I got my dog he was a retirement project for me and that's what gets me off my chair and outside. One of the things I would like to push for is for dog walking to be an actual activity and to be looked at as such."
And something else he said the city should know. "There's a lot of dog owners in this city who also vote. And that's I think an important thing that the councillors should also be looking at."