Côte St. Luc councillor Mike Cohen says he will propose to council amendments to the city's 62-year-old bylaw which does not allow dogs to be in parks, even leashed.
Cohen, who has the animal protection portfolio on council and founded the Côte St. Luc Cats Committee, hosted a dog owners meeting last week at city hall with a potential goal of forming a dog owners committee.
Cohen was joined by Councillors Steven Erdelyi, Mitch Kujavsky, and Oren Sebag, as well as CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson. Cohen and Reichson explained that while dogs cannot generally be walked in parks, a pilot project was launched more than a year ago in which they were allowed in some smaller parks and greenspaces.
"It worked out very well and I did not get one single complaint," Cohen pointed out. "If we have responsible dog owners who pick up after their canines and keep them on leashes, then this can work."
The councillor added that several island cities, including Westmount, allow dogs in parks.
"Based on the feedback from our meeting, I will bring some proposed amendments to our council with the support of Councillors Sebag, Kujavsky and Erdelyi," Cohen added. "As Director Reichson noted, our proposal could include dogs permitted in parks on a leash, but not in the areas of playgrounds or splash pads."
Many residents generally supported a change to the bylaw.
But resident and council regular Tamar Hertz, who pointed out she loves dogs, expressed concern about allowing dogs to be walked in parks.
"I have a young child and I'm concerned about how often I have experienced dogs being allowed by their owners to approach my child without permission," she said. "I would like to see a balanced approach to any changes made. The needs of people who want to walk their dogs in the parks —on leash— or enjoy the park with their family which includes a dog, should be considered alongside those people who don’t feel comfortable or enjoy sharing park space with dogs— or more aptly, 'irresponsible' dog owners.
"Some parks should be kept dog-free so those people who are afraid of dogs or don't want to have to be vigilant about dogs can have access to relaxing greenspace too," she proposed.
Reichson responded that one possibility would be to cordon off an area in a large park.
After the meeting, we asked Reichson and council members what the original rationale was for the prohibition of even leashed dogs in parks. Nobody knew as the original bylaw was passed in 1956.