Sarnia council, and the seemingly powerful Off-Leash Dog Parks committee advising it, are missing the point: the vast majority of citizens do NOT want dogs of any size on local beaches.
Council decided recently to seek public input in January on a plan that would see dog owners bring their unleashed animals to one of three beaches — Mike Weir, Baxter, or Kenwick — during certain hours of the day.
Why is this a bad idea?
First of all, dogs are messy. When nature calls they urinate and defecate in the water and sand at will.
Safety is another concern. Human beings, including children, do not normally bite when running loose. But dogs can and do!
In reality, some dog owners already bring their pets to Sarnia’s beaches and spoil the human activities going on there, despite the (admittedly small) posted ‘No Dogs Allowed’ signs.
They should be responsible adults and find a fenced dog park or field to exercise their pets, instead of allowing them to cavort on the beach.
This dog beach plan has advanced this far based on an essentially unknown-to-most citizens survey done last year that garnered a grand total of 100 respondents. Eighty-one percent of these no doubt mostly dog owners supported a dog-friendly beach, and 58% supported an off-leash dog-friendly beach in a non-fenced area.
Sounds like fun if you happen to be an over-the-top dog owner; less so if you happen to bring young children to the beach that day.
Have parents with children in this city and county been polled?
And let’s not forget all the visitors who come to our beaches, drawn by widely advertised and taxpayer-funded tourism initiatives.
The survey respondents identified the west end of Canatara Beach as the preferred site for a dog beach. But city staff has already nixed that idea because it would jeopardize Canatara’s well-deserved Blue Flag designation.
You see, Blue Flag beaches do not allow domestic animals. Why? Because their urine and feces impair water quality and dirty the sand.
Do we really want a different Sarnia beach jeopardized to please a small group of dog owners and their hairy pets?
If we’re going to open a beach up to dogs, why not cats as well?
Cat owners would surely love to have a spot where their fluffy felines could ‘lose-their-minds’ in the biggest sand box ever.
At least with cats there’s little likelihood of them ever leaving the beach to pee in Lake Huron.
Maybe a Cats-n-Dogs beach resort is next on council’s agenda. And after that, how about opening up a beach to pet lizards, or gerbils, or pygmy pigs?
John Dickson is a business development and marketing consultant and a former General Manager of Tourism Sarnia-Lambton.