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 April 2009 - Nr. 4
Happy Easter - Frohe Ostern

My Dog Teaches … the Coming of Spring

Hunny by David McKagueAhh, finally! The long winter is coming to an end and the signs of spring are in the air. The sun is getting warmer as the days are lengthening. Leaves are beginning to appear on the trees. The pleasant chirping of birds as we awaken is a reminder that spring is the time for rejuvenation of life.

After a long winter of hibernation, people are spending more and more time outdoors. Lawns and driveways are being cleaned of the debris left after the snows have melted. The joyful sound of children frolicking in the playgrounds brings smiles to passers-by. Delicious aromas rise from barbecues and waft through the neighborhood.

Dogs are running and playing happily in the parks with their owners. (Sorry! – Cancel that.) Dogs playing in parks are no longer allowed.

The sight of a boy playing with his dog, an iconic image of North American life immortalized in many of Norman Rockwell’s paintings, is apparently something the public should not be exposed to. Governments seem to be intent on deleting these scenes from our lives and memories and in throwing a winter chill over dog ownership.

According to our officials, it appears that owning a dog is not something that can bring joy to our lives, but should be a serious and somber affair. How else do we explain some of the laws and practices introduced recently?

The city of Toronto last year hired additional Animal Control Officers to nab people playing off leash with their dogs. I have run into many people who have told me that these officers have involved themselves in such questionable practices as hiding behind trees in parks waiting to pounce if they spy a dog off leash. And what a pounce it is – a fine starting at $300.00. And this enforcement is not just in busy parks where there might be some applicability if a dog were running amok. It also is done in isolated areas such as ravines when people take their dogs for an early morning run or in parks in the middle of winter where virtually the only ones in the parks are dog owners and their pets.

Another tactic used by these bylaw enforcement people is to penalize people as they arrive at leash-free dog parks. When the dogs are let off leash before the "official" edge of the leash-free area (and most leash-free dog parks in the city of Toronto are not fenced) an Animal Control Officer can appear to dole out another fine. This particular strategy used by Animal Control has a distinct odor of entrapment – force all dogs into the miniscule ghettoed areas that are allocated for dogs and watch if an unleashed dog puts a paw outside the line that designates the area. Never mind the observable fact that most dogs can’t wait to get into the area to play with the other dogs.

And of course we have the recent city of Toronto year-round ban on dogs, whether leashed or not, from many beaches to further put a damper on any fun dog owners might have with their dogs, complete with another $300.00 fine. So now the beaches will be almost entirely deserted during the coldest months of the year when the only regular users happen to be dog owners.

It certainly seems that "Man’s best friend" is under attack and is becoming an unwanted sight, at best tolerated only when he is under restraint by a leash. And yet, the primary need for a dog is to be permitted time off leash to run free. This is not the danger some fear, but is in fact a safety valve that allows a dog to get exercise and socialize with other dogs and people. It is the primary tool dog owners have to ensure their dogs are the safe companions everyone wants them to be.

Our parks should be for the benefit of the people who use them. They should be places where people can socialize, can have some fun, can get away from their daily grind, can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Just as we expect that people playing soccer or volleyball in a park can do so without hurting others or infringing on their enjoyment of the space, so too can we accommodate dogs without having to resort to heavy-handed and draconian penalties.

After all, spring and summer would lose something without that boy playing with his dog.

Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:

Editor’s note: I would like to encourage dog lovers everywhere to start a PETITION to have this law thrown out or revised to such a form where justice prevails. SFR.

Email to David McKague
David McKague talks about the pit-bull or pit bulls, pets, dogs, the duress put upon dog and the owners, especially through laws in Ontario, Canada, that affect and encroach on rights and freedoms of the individual, human rights, reputation of individuals and owners. David stresses the importance of being responsible and understanding when dealing with pets.

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