Dog issues divide community

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Kitchissippi neighbours, Heather Crow and Patty Murphy, with Crow’s dog, Petunia. Crow visits Hampton Park several times a week with Petunia. It provides “good socialization” she says. “I just love it here.” Photo by Judith van Berkom.

Construction of the $500,000 Hampton Park Multi-Use Pathway is well underway. It’s a project that will include a fenced-in area for dogs to socialize, play and run.

The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer and also includes the extension and upgrade of existing pathways in Hampton Park and through NCC land.

The current park – which is located near Kirkwood and Carling Avenues – features two baseball diamonds, a children’s playground and city-run wading pool, a grassy area for summer picnics, and a wooded area used by cyclists, runners, dog walkers, and ordinary residents of all ages who enjoy the cool shade of the many mature trees.

For residents like Crystallina Chiu, a fenced-in dog run is a welcome addition to the area. Chiu, who lives close to Iona Park, says she is wary of dogs. She’d rather have her daughter play at Iona Park rather than Hampton. Although she hasn’t had any altercations with dogs and says they pay “zero attention” to her, she still freezes when she sees them.

“I thought that Hampton Park was an off-leash park until about a month ago, we’ve been living nearby for about 10 months,” says Chiu.

Jennifer and Dan McLaurin of Hilson Avenue, are original members of the HP Dog group, a group of neighbours who have been walking their dogs together for the better part of a decade. They say the NCC designated certain parks to be off-leash 15 years ago, but Hampton Park was not one of them.

“HP Dog lobbied the NCC for more than 10 years to allow dogs to run free, inviting [the NCC] to walk in the park, showing them the pathways created by dog walkers through the forest,” says Jennifer.

Cathy McBride is a founding member of HP Dog. She’s been walking her dogs in the park since 1996. According to McBride, fifteen years ago, the wooded portion of the park was seldom used.

“People have been walking their dogs off leash for years and years [at Hampton Park],” says McBride.

Jennifer McLaurin believes people feel safer walking in the park when dogs and their owners are there, and that non-dog owners even come to the park to see the dogs. The presence of dog walkers mean that more people are using the park, and more people means there are more eyes looking out for dangerous situations.

She knows of at least two fires started by kids in the woods. “A dog walker called the fire department,” recalls Jennifer. “Once a girl was being harassed by boys, and one of the dog owners was able to take her home.”

According to Kitchissippi resident Patty Murphy, Ottawa is “one of the most dog-unfriendly cities.” Murphy, who has been walking her dogs in Hampton Park since 1996, diligently picks up after her dogs and cleans up after other dogs as well. “I don’t want anyone to have a reason not to allow me to walk my dog [in the park],” she adds.

According to Jennifer and Dan McLaurin, the NCC started giving out warnings to people for walking dogs off leash in 2003. Ticketing started soon afterwards. Dog walkers report fines of up to $150. [story continues below photos]

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A current view of the Hampton Park fenced in dog area. Photo by Andrea Tomkins.
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The children’s playground at Hampton Park. Photo by Andrea Tomkins.

 

Wellington West’s Tami Grosset says the fenced-in area might meet the needs of some dogs and some owners, but it won’t for many others.

“For many dog owners walking the dog is not just about exercising the pet but also getting exercise,” says Grosset. “With a fenced in area, the only exercise an owner will get is a better throwing arm.”

Grosset often walks her dog with her 3- and 6-year-old in Hampton Park, and was surprised when the construction began. She hadn’t heard about the plans beforehand.

“I am amazed that the city would spend so much of our tax dollars on a project without finding out if the users and residents actually need or want the work done,” she says.

Grosset, originally from the UK, wonders why the children’s playground at Hampton isn’t fenced in. She says many of the children’s play areas in the UK are fenced in, and most parks allow dogs to run off leash.

Although many neighbourhood dog owners seem generally happy to have a fenced-in area for dogs to run freely,  they’re concerned about the drainage problem in the assigned area as well as a commitment to maintenance. It’s swampy for a few months in the spring, and full of burrs and long grasses in the summer.

As one anonymous Kitchissippi dog walker commented: “It would be nice if they had set up the park so everyone can use it – bikers, mothers with children, dog walkers with their dogs, and the elderly.”

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We turned to Facebook to see what you thought of the new fenced in dog area at Hampton Park. We received this response from Solange Guiada, who lives nearby and visits the park on a weekly basis.

 I think a fenced dog run is a great idea, and I would hope it now finally keeps people from roaming the woods with their dogs off-leash.

I own a little terrier that we walk in the park several times a week, always on leash. I also visit the park often with my kids, aged 4 and 2.

I have had several unpleasant and unsafe incidents with off-leash dogs in the park. Dogs running loose often run up to me as I’m walking my dog. Most are friendly but even out of control friendly play is not welcome by my small dog, who gets pounced on and reacts with growling. I never know how the other dog is going to react to my dog’s growling and it’s scary. I have been left trying to pull away my dog from a tangle with another dog while the owner is many feet away, too far to intervene.

A similar situation has happened with my kids, where friendly big dogs make them fall over.

Once I had a large dog run up and attack my dog who was walking beside me on a leash.  The owner was too far to help and it was very scary to intervene with an unknown German Shepherd acting aggressively.

Invariably people with loose dogs yell out that their dogs are friendly, but in my opinion, nobody can guarantee 100% what their dog’s behaviour is going to be when they encounter another dog or human.

Another problem in that park is off-leash dogs often running into the playground area, where they are not allowed. Having small children playing there and having dogs stray in with their owners far away is unsafe, in my opinion.

Lastly, I have had similar instances of dogs running after me while I am jogging in the park.

So, to recap. As a dog owner and mother of small children I think a fenced dog run would be great and I would hope it helps enforce the rule of only leashed dogs elsewhere, which is currently not enforced at all.

What do you think about the rules around dogs and leash laws at Hampton Park? Will the new dog run meet the needs of dogs and their owners? We’d love to hear your comments. Send your feedback to editor@kitchissippi.com.

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