Miriam Sweet-Wright complains in her May 27 letter to the Advocate that marathon runners were rude to her at Three Mile Bend.
She asks, “Just how and why am I supposed to keep four dogs out of your way, on half of the trail, or off you, as you trot through their off-leash park?”
These are important questions and I have two answers to each question.
First, Three Mile Bend is not and never was a park intended exclusively as an off-leash park. Like other city parks, it is designed for a diverse set of users: runners, walkers, cyclists, paddlers, and, yes, dog walkers. There are pictogram signs within the park clearly indicating that the trail is for use by pedestrians and bicycles.
Accordingly, all users must conduct themselves so as not to interfere with the enjoyment of others.
Just as cyclists must slow down while they travel through the park, it also seems reasonable that dog owners also should prevent their dogs from chasing or colliding with other users. This is frightening to many cyclists and runners since they cannot determine if an unfamiliar dog is being playful or aggressive.
In addition, it’s plainly illegal to let dogs run at large (that is, out of control) in any City of Red Deer park.
At Three Mile Bend, dog owners need not leash their dogs, but they are still clearly required by the dog bylaw to keep the dog under control and to prevent it from chasing or attacking any other person or animal. There are no exceptions, even at Three Mile Bend, and even if you think your dog is special.
Since both common sense and the law dictate that dog owners control their dogs, how are they to do this?
Traditionally, animal owners have employed two techniques. One is to keep the dog visible (since one can’t control a dog if one doesn’t know what it’s doing) and to train the dog to obey voice commands. But in my experience, many owners cannot predict the actions of their dog when it encounters an unfamiliar person or animal and their dogs frequently do not respond to their voice commands at all.
In these cases, animal obedience schools can help the owner to effectively use dog commands.
If the owner is unable or unwilling to use voice commands effectively, the other obvious and legally acceptable alternative is to keep the dog on a leash no longer than two metres. This might seem to defeat the purpose of visiting a park where off-leash use is permitted, but, obviously, an owner’s obligation to obey the law trumps her desire to let her dogs run at large. Dogs must be under their owner’s control.
In closing, I’m puzzled why Sweet-Wright thinks the runners were rude. After all, we cannot expect bylaw enforcement or police officers to be everywhere at once and to catch everyone who breaks the law.
It’s therefore quite reasonable and appropriate for citizens to let other people know when they’re breaking the law.
I have no duty whatsoever to remain silent when others are breaking the law and lessening my enjoyment of a public place. It’s my right, and perhaps my duty, to speak up when others violate eminently sensible laws.
Put that way, it seems it’s those who don’t bother to acquaint themselves with the dog bylaw or to follow it are actually the ones who are rude.