Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dogged pursuit of dog parks

Pooch playgrounds touted as infrastructure by group

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A coalition of dog owners wants city hall to recognize off-leash parks as part of the city's basic infrastructure, funded like roads and playgrounds.

"Dog parks are a core service just like any other core service in the city," said Donna Henry, spokeswoman for WINDOG -- Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups. "Dog parks are the same as any other park in the city -- dog parks should be there the same way as skateboard parks and soccer parks."

Henry and WINDOG board members went to city hall Monday to oppose a proposed set of guidelines for off-leash dog parks.

Henry said the report proposing the guidelines has an anti-dog bias, the consultant who wrote the report didn't consult the dog groups or the Winnipeg Humane Society, and she alleged the awarding of the report contract breached the city's tendering process.

'Dog parks are a core service just like any other core service in the city'

-- Donna Henry, spokeswoman for WINDOG

Members of the protection and community services committee endorsed the guidelines, which will be forwarded to council for approval.

While committee members Brian Mayes and Scott Fielding said the city could use a few more dog parks, they don't consider off-leash parks as basic infrastructure.

"I would want to serve the interest of the kids of the city before I turned my interests to dog owners of the city," Mayes, chairman of the committee, said. "It's not a core function of the city to provide off-leash dog parks."

The dog owners' appearance at city hall is part of concerted effort to make off-leash parks an issue during the election campaign.

The coalition recently launched its "I own a dog and I vote," campaign to pressure candidates for council and mayor to create more off-leash dog space.

Henry said she was disappointed the committee endorsed the guidelines, adding city hall needs to adopt a policy that makes the creation and protection of dog parks a priority.

Henry said Winnipeg trails most other major cities across the country on dedicated dog parks.

While the city established its first dog park in 1998, Henry said city hall continues to give away space set aside for dogs to sporting groups and developers.

Henry said Winnipeg has more than 4,000 hectares of green space but only 101 hectares is set aside as off-leash dog parks.

"We just want some balance here," Henry said.

The coalition found an ally in Bill McDonald, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society, who said the consultant who wrote the report did an inadequate job of consulting with dog-owner groups.

McDonald said the humane society was never consulted on the report.

Public works director Brad Sacher denied the city violated tendering procedures when the dog park report was awarded to a landscape architect, adding the proposed guidelines in the report have the potential to achieve the goals the dog owners are advocating.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2014 A3

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