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Off-leash areas too limited, some say
Dog owners want large, grassy space where their animals can run

Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 22, 2012

When the city's dog park opened eight years ago, the vice-president of the SPCA at the time said she hoped it would be "the first of many."

Yet, it is still the first and only in Yellowknife and city council isn't considering putting in another one anytime soon, said Mayor Gord Van Tighem.

"If (residents) keep their dog under control, if they're picking up after their dog, there are several areas in the city that they can take them to," he said.

But, some of the 1,355 licensed dog owners in the city aren't satisfied with the spaces available to them.

The dog park has been likened to a disease-ridden prison yard, the Sand Pits have proven to be a dangerous area for pets and the school yards are now off limits to Yellowknife's furry friends.

"It's frustrating," said SPCA president Nicole Spencer. "It seems like there is no place where people can just bring their dogs."

The city's three designated off-leash areas - Tin Can Hill, Fiddler's Lake Road and the Sand Pits - are all multi-use spaces that play host to a variety of visitors who don't always watch out for pets.

The Sand Pits in particular have been the scene of a few canine tragedies over the years. Earlier this month a family lost their pet after a SUV drove through the area and ran over their 33-pound Pomeranian mix.

In 2008, a similar incident occurred when a family dog started chasing a black truck in the area and ended up getting mowed down.

"It can be quite dangerous," said Spencer. "You definitely have to be careful if you're walking your dogs out there."

Dog owner Ashlee Rice opts to use the dog park behind the curling club to exercise her two canines, Halo and Diesel. But, she said, it too isn't an ideal place.

It's small and the rocky ground is tough on the dogs' paws, she said, adding the rocks once ripped open the pad on one of Diesel's paws.

"It would be nice if it was grassier," she said. "I think it could be bigger."

Veterinarian Tom Pisz said there are also some hidden dangers to bringing a pet to the enclosure.

"This type of facility concentrates the possibility of spreading diseases and parasites because there are too many dogs in a small area," Pisz said. "If you're going to have your dog off leash in a public area, you should make sure the dogs are fully immunized."

Spencer and Rice both said they would like to see a much larger off-leash area that's exclusive for dogs.

It would also be nice, they said, if the area had a body of water and trails to walk the dogs on.

In Whitehorse, there are no dog exclusive areas but the city allows dog owners to walk their dogs off-leash in about 19 different areas.

"There is enough land around (in Yellowknife), I mean, my god, we should be able to have a large area that people can take their dogs to," Spencer said. "It is up to the people to demand it."

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