One business owner is done with downtown Red Deer after 18 years.
The proprietor of Reagan’s Dog Zone, located at 4820 47th Ave., is looking to move at the end of May.
Owner Reagan Stokes said she found a pile of needles around the back entrance of her business on May 7.
In the past, she has found needle debris, condoms, shoes, clothing and cigarette butts in the same area – a cubby-hole that protects an electrical box – but this time, it was different.
“I’ve personally never seen a pile of five or six needles like that,” she said.
The cubby-hole, located in the parking lot in the business’s back entrance, has walls on three sides that are about eight feet tall. The secluded spot provides privacy to the homeless.
After coming across the pile of needles, she started posting a video of it on various Facebook groups. She was quickly contacted by the Downtown Business Association, which took care of the debris, but the incident made Stokes upset.
“It makes me mad,” she said, “because it’s something we’re dealing with so often and it’s something I don’t feel comfortable dealing with.”
She says there are various reasons she is moving, such as her expiring lease, but she won’t be looking at any downtown locations.
“The fact that I’m not going to relocate anywhere downtown is because of the criminal and the drug activity, and all that goes with it.”
The dog grooming industry involves dog walking, Stokes said, adding that most of the time, her staff takes dogs out for walks in the neighbourhood.
“I don’t want them stepping on it, or stepping on needles, or grabbing a baggie, or sniffing what’s got who knows what in it. And they’re even more sensitive than we are,” she said of the animals, adding she and her staff have to scan the ground at all times while out on walks.
The needle debris, “dope baggies” and drug paraphernalia are everywhere in the neighbourhood, such as in the nearby “grassy area” and in the parking lot, said Stokes.
“When I do take them out, and it’s not as often as my staff, if there’s someone in the Dumpster nearby, I have to pick up the dog poop and turn around, because I don’t want to throw a bag of poop when someone is digging in the garbage. It’s another thing I’ve dealt with for a long time.”
It’s also something her customers deal with, and it’s not good for business, she said.