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Mar 2019

No Funding for Winnipeg Dog Parks!

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A City Council committee has turned down Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups’ request to fund implementation of the city’s new Off-Leash Area Master Plan (OLAMP) and invest in dog parks.

Appearing yesterday before the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks, WINDOG president Donna Henry asked the City to increase the 2019 Parks and Open Space capital budget so the long-awaited plan can be implemented.

The plan, which is a framework for creating and managing the city’s dog parks, was developed over the past two years in consultation with Winnipeg dog park advocates and dog owners at a cost of $100,000. It was approved by City Council last July. The plan’s supporting documents state:

“The City will establish a budget line to support capital investment in the establishment and enhancement of OLAs…and will establish additional operating budget resources for the management of OLAs…”

Parks and Open Space administrators say the City needs to allocate an additional $300,000  for dog parks in its capital budget in each of the next 6 years. The priority – upgrading existing off-leash areas. The money would also be directed to creating new ones in under-serviced neighbourhoods. Parks also needs additional funds in its operating budget – $15,000 to comply with new service standards (garbage collection, etc.) in existing dog parks and $9,905 per hectare for new ones.

Parks is committed to upgrading existing dog parks and creating new ones. But the division’s budget is stretched to the limit. Without secure capital funding that simply won’t happen.

Henry reminded the committee that groups in Point Douglas, the North End and at King George V Park have been waiting for years for a neighbourhood dog park. Residents have met with ward councillors, gathered names on petitions, and made presentations to community committees, EPC, and city council. They’ve heard the same message from every level.

“Be patient. Wait until the off-leash area master plan is complete. The City will have a process in place for creating new dog parks. And there will be funding to create and maintain them.”

Despite those assurances, yesterday’s decision means there is still no money for dog parks. Committee councillors (Sherri Rollins, John Orlikow, Ross Eadie and Vivian Santos) declined to make any changes to the proposed parks budget and endorsed it unanimously. It’s worth noting that this is the same committee that served as the master plan steering committee over the past two years, shepherding the plan through its development.

The committee’s decision should come as no surprise. Except for developing a new downtown dog park at a reported cost of approximately $700,000 to fulfill  Mayor Bowman’s 2014 election campaign promise, the City has not invested a cent in its off-leash areas since the first ones were established in 1998.

In the past few years, however, things were beginning to look a little brighter for Winnipeg dogs and their people. In 2014, in the run-up to the civic election, in addition to the promise of a new dog park for The Forks, City Council approved $100,000 to develop an off-leash area master plan.  Last July, during the run-up to the 2018 civic election,  Council voted to approve the master plan, even though elected officials knew there were important deficiencies in it. Cynics, including a few councillors, have suggested Council’s approval was merely expedient – the optics of throwing a bone to voting dog lovers, an attempt to “be seen as doing something for the dog park community”.

The election has come and gone and with it, it appears, Council’s interest in doing anything for the dog park community.

What message does the committee’s refusal to recommend funding to implement the plan send to dog owners and dog park advocacy groups?

That the new off-leash master plan has become just another document, shelved and gathering dust?

That the planning process was an utter waste of taxpayers’ dollars and that our participation in developing the plan, which we believed was valuable, was just a hollow exercise?

Until City Council is prepared to fund implementation of the off-leash area master plan, Winnipeg’s dog parks, in terms of their quality and quantity, will continue to deteriorate. And they will continue to rank at the back of the pack compared to other Canadian cities.

Follow the link to read WINDOG’s full submission to the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Service and Parks.


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Mar 2019


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WINNIPEG Network of Dog Owner Groups (WINDOG) Submission


Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Service and Parks

Regarding Funding – Winnipeg Off-leash Area Master Plan (OLAMP)

March 8, 2019


The Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups (WINDOG) is here today to ask that Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Service and Parks recommend to the Executive Policy Committee that the City of Winnipeg’s 2019 capital budget be amended to include funding that Parks and Open Space has identified is necessary to implement the new Off-Leash Area Master Plan.

WINDOG is a registered not-for-profit organization. Our mandate is to advocate for quality off-leash space, and sound off-leash legislation, policies, and practices.

Our members are official park stewardship organizations like Kilcona Park Dog Club and Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association.

Under the City’s Adopt-A-Park Program WINDOG members volunteer thousands of hours of labour annually to help the City maintain Winnipeg dog parks. We also fundraise for off-leash area improvements.

Besides its members, WINDOG has several partners. These are groups of dog lovers that are waiting for the City to designate off-leash areas in Point Douglas, the North End and at St. Vital’s King George V Park.

Some of these groups have been asking the City for a neighbourhood dog park for years. They have appealed to their ward councillors and made presentations to community committees, EPC, and city council.

They have heard the same message at every level – “Be patient. Wait until the off-leash area master plan is complete. There will be a process in place for creating new dog parks. And there will be funding to create and maintain them.”

Protection, Community Services and Parks served as the steering committee for the master plan, shepherding it through the planning process and public consultations – listening to public servants, consultants, WINDOG, dog park stewardship groups, groups waiting for their own dog parks, and individual dog owners.

The plan, which Council approved last July, clearly identifies that Winnipeggers are demanding more well-designed dog parks with quality amenities. The Plan’s policies and standards provide direction on meeting that demand in a sustainable manner.

The Plan states,

“The City will establish a budget line to support capital investment in the establishment and enhancement of OLAs…and will establish additional operating budget resources for the management of OLAs…”

The public service has identified that City needs an additional $15,000 in operating budget resources for existing off-leash areas to meet new OLAMP service level standards.

For new off-leash areas, an additional operating budget of $9,905 per hectare is required so the City can comply with service level maintenance standards.

The public service also identified that the City needs to establish a $300,000 capital budget line item in each of the next 6 years to support the establishment and enhancement of dog parks. It was recommended that capital funding to implement the plan be referred to the 2019 budget process.

In view of the direction given, WINDOG and its members are very disappointed to learn that there is absolutely no funding in the 2019 budget for dog parks.

After spending $100,000 to develop a framework for creating and managing regional, community and neighbourhood dog parks, the City has not allocated a penny to implementing its master plan.

Dog park stewardship groups, groups waiting for their own neighbourhood dog parks, and individual dog owners who participated in the master plan public engagement process – all those people who attended consultation meetings, committee and council meetings, and pop-up events, reviewed drafts and completed online surveys will be more than disappointed when the information is made public.

Perhaps the budget working group’s failure to fund implementation of the master should not have come as a big surprise.

The City has invested nothing in its dog parks since the first ones were created in 1998. In terms of providing quality off-leash dog parks, Winnipeg ranks near the bottom of major Canadian cities.

And when we compare ourselves against other Manitoba communities, the numbers are even worse.

Winnipeg has set aside 12 off-leash areas totalling about 200 acres. Much of this land is undesirable real estate that’s unsuitable for dog parks – capped landfills, street right of ways and industrial parks.

Entire wards such as Ft. Rouge-East Fort Garry, Point Douglas, and most neighbourhoods in south-west Winnipeg do not have an off-leash dog park.

After the draft master plan was released last May, WINDOG and the public service had several discussions about implementation. Parks and Open Space is committed to establishing new dog parks and upgrading existing ones. But without secure capital funding that simply won’t happen.

As noted in the 2018 Asset Management Plan, the City has acquired significant greenspace over the years, but Parks’ budget has remained virtually unchanged.

It is well documented that Parks has not had an increase in its service delivery budget for fifteen years. This has led to a decline in the quality of park amenities and many services have been reduced or discontinued.

In implementing the master plan, Parks’ priority is to direct capital funding to improving safety and upgrading amenities in existing dog parks before establishing new ones.

There’s strong public demand to make all dog parks safer and more secure by fencing the boundaries. The cost of doing this is relatively low. Last summer Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association fenced the city’s second largest dog park for $16,000.

At the same time, Kilcona Park Dog Club solicited quotes for fencing the city’s largest dog park. The work can be done for less than $50,000.

However, fencing and upgrading furnishings in existing dog parks to comply with new standards may be relatively minor expenditures. The plan indicates that from time to time, it may be necessary to purchase land. This might happen, for example, in underserved areas, with high dog license densities, no public greenspace, and available land that is suitable for development as a dog park.

The master plan identifies parts of the city where the need for off-leash areas is the greatest – notably the North End and Point Douglas – which have the highest dog license density. There are no off-leash areas in either of these neighbourhoods or in many others.

Except for Bonnycastle, Winnipeg dog parks continue to be seriously underfunded. In the face of declining resources, the City relies increasingly on OLA stewardship groups to raise money for capital improvements and supply volunteer labour to help with park maintenance.

For example, each year Kilcona Park Dog Club volunteers donate about 3000 hours of volunteer service on stewardship activities like holding clean-ups, chipping hiking trails and banding trees to protect them from beaver damage.

Over the past five years the Kilcona club has donated $60,000 worth of dog waste bag dispensers, waste bags, in-ground garbage bins, picnic tables and park benches. This year the club will spend an additional $70,000 to $80,000 on a three-tiered drinking fountain/bottle filling station, a dog rinse station, and supporting infrastructure. Dog parks that do not have stewardship groups like Kilcona’s that fundraise have had no improvements.

As it stands, Parks and Open Spaces 2019 capital budget is $8,653,000. Funds are allocated to community and neighbourhood parks, parks buildings, athletic fields, the Parks and Recreation Enhancement Program, reforestation, and the Urban Forest Enhancement Program, to which understandably 51% of the budget is directed.

The next largest budget line is for the Parks and Recreation Enhancement Program at 38%. The funds are used for playground restoration, play equipment and safety surface replacements, amenities and pathway improvements.

$300,000 of the total PREP budget of $3,300,000 is earmarked for city-wide general playground and amenity safety. The remaining $3,000,000 is divided equally between each of the fifteen electoral wards.

WINDOG know that because the program is ward-based, it is close to councillors’ hearts. But we ask that this committee recommend to EPC that $300,000 of that $3,000,000 be reallocated to implementation of the off-leash dog park master plan. In terms of the financial impact, it would change the current PREP allocation by $20,000 per ward – reducing it from $200,000 $180,000.

Funding plan implementation would send a strong message to the general public, and to dog owners and advocacy groups specifically, that their participation in the process of creating an off-leash area master plan was not just a hollow exercise, that the master plan will not be just another document gathering dust.

I urge the committee to do the right thing; recommend a budget line for implementing the master plan, a budget line to support capital investment in the establishment and enhancement of Winnipeg’s off-leash dog parks.


Donna Henry

President – WINDOG Inc.


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Oct 2018


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Good news for Winnipeg dog lovers! Mayor Brian Bowman and a majority of  city councillors – a total of 10 out of 16 incumbents – have declared themselves to be dog park-friendly. WINDOG has awarded five of them – Bowman, Browaty, Lukes, Mayes, and Schreyer –  “super dog-park friendly” status for their pro-active efforts to expand and enhance the city’s off-leash green spaces.

During the election campaign, dog park-friendly candidates  responded positively to WINDOG’s  survey, indicating they’re open to the coalition’s proposal to establish a dedicated tax-supported line in the City’s capital budget. The dedicated funding would be used to create new dog parks and upgrade existing ones to comply with standards in the City’s new Off-Leash Dog Park Master Plan.

Dog park friendly candidates also indicated their willingness to designate off-leash areas as single-use spaces where only those activities associated with off-leash dogs are permitted.


Mayor Brian Bowman

Charleswood – Kevin Klein

East Kildonan / Elmwood – Jason Schreyer

MynarskI – Ross Eadie

North Kildonan – Jeff Browaty

Old Kildonan – Devi Sharma

River Heights – John Orlikow

St. Boniface – Matt Allard

St. Vital – Brian Mayes

Waverley West – Janice Lukes


St. Norbert / Seine River – Markus Chambers. Qualified support for single-use dog parks.

Transcona – Shawn Nason responded to WINDOG’s survey but declined to say if he will support dedicated funding for dog parks or whether he supports single-use off-leash areas.


WINDOG considers that candidates who chose not to respond to the survey view off-leash dog parks as a very low priority. Unresponsive candidates are considered to be dog unfriendly.

Daniel McIntyre – Cindy Gilroy

Fort Rouge / East Fort Garry – Sherri Rollins

Point Douglas – Vivian Santos

St. James – Scott Gillingham

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Oct 2018

Cast Your Vote for Dog Parks!

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Dog lovers can make a difference! On October 24 cast your vote for off-leash dog parks!

The results are in. The Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups has just released the results of its “I own a dog AND I vote!” poll of candidates.The survey was conducted between September 15 and 30.

WINDOG President, Donna Henry says the coalition awarded “super dog-friendly” or “dog-friendly” status to fifty percent of the candidates.

WINDOG recognizes four incumbents and a former city counciller as “dog-friendly” for their outstanding commitment to Winnipeg’s off-leash areas. They are Mayor Brian Bowman, North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty, St. Vital Councillor Brian Mayes, Waverly West Councillor Janice Lukes, and former St. Charles Councillor, Grant Nordman.

And twenty-five more have earned ‘dog-friendly’ status, each pledging to improve the city’s limited and underfunded off-leash green space. Dog-friendly candidates will support a Council motion to secure dedicated funding in the City’s capital budget to create new dog parks and upgrade existing ones. ‘Dog-friendlies’ also support designating off-leash areas as ‘single-use’ spaces where only activities associated with off-leash dogs are permitted.

At the back of the pack, five ‘dog-unfriendlies’ are in the dog house. And twenty-five candidates consider off-leash dog parks such a low priority that they didn’t bother responding to the survey.

Henry says there’s much greater awareness and support for off-leash dog parks than there was in the 2014 civic election campaign. She credits extensive public consultation during the development of Winnipeg’s new Off-leash Dog Park Master Plan over the past year for the change in attitudes but says the city still has a long way to go. When it comes to setting aside recreational green space for off-leash dog parks, Winnipeg lags behind every major city in Canada.  

Want to know who the ‘dog-friendlies’ in your ward are or which mayoral candidates will offer the best support to dog parks? Candidate’s responses, their platform and bios are posted on WINDOG’s website.  To check them out, clicking on Election 2018 and follow the links.

At least 40% of Winnipeg households have a dog. That’s an awful lot of votes!

Please like and share with fellow dog lovers.

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Sep 2018

Bowman Considers Converting Wading Pools to Permanent Dog Pools

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Posted: 09/5/2018 4:00 AM

Wading pool for dogs experiment has big proponent in Mayor Brian Bowman

By: Doug Speirs


If you love dogs, you are my friend. I suppose that Hallmark card-style sentiment is about as close as I come to having a philosophy of life.



Doug Speirs (left) holds Juno along with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and his dog, Indiana.


It also explains why I like hanging out from time to time with Winnipeg’s dog-loving mayor, Brian Bowman.

Last summer, for instance, I joined the mayor and an adorable two-year-old German shepherd cross named Dorothy for a sunny walk around city hall to promote Winnipeg’s Animal Services Agency’s dog-adoption program.

It was the launch of an unofficial new program wherein the mayor invited local personalities and community leaders to join him and a canine companion for casual strolls downtown to help adoptable dogs find “forever homes.”

On Saturday, in the middle of the holiday weekend, my newest dog, Juno, and I joined the mayor and his 12-year-old miniature Labradoodle, Indiana, for a refreshing late-summer dip in the Bruce Park wading pool in St. James.

This is the second straight year the city has gone to the dogs in the sense it has transformed two of its wading pools into canine-only facilities on the final day before the pools are closed for the season.

The way it worked was licensed dogs under 30 pounds were allowed to splash around at Bruce Park from 10 a.m. to noon, while dogs over 30 pounds were invited from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. It was the same at Norwood wading pool, except larger dogs had the first time slot.

I was pretty pumped up about dog day at the pool because I have never seen any of my hounds swim, other than a brief dip in an inflatable kiddie pool in our backyard.

For the record, I had also been promising for months to give Brian a copy of Finding Gobi, a heart-tugging book about an ultra-marathon runner named Dion Leonard, whose life is changed forever when he crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a 250-kilometre race through the Gobi Desert in China.

If you love dogs, or even enjoy hearing about crazy people who run ridiculously long distances, you have to read this book.

But that’s not the point. The point is: it is difficult, using mere words, to describe how funny it is to watch a couple of dozen dogs having the time of their lives racing around after tennis balls in a city wading pool. But I will try: It is very, very funny!

And there is some extremely exciting news for Winnipeg dog owners who like the idea of letting their best friends beat the heat by cooling off in a wading pool normally reserved for pint-sized humans.

As his family kept a wary eye on Indiana, and my daughter, Kayleigh, took photos of a waterlogged Juno, the mayor explained that he is hoping to expand the doggie days at the pool project next summer.

“I think it’s great!” the mayor beamed as our dogs joined at least a dozen other soggy canines racing around the pool and attempting to retrieve complimentary tennis balls. “What I love about this is the dogs are happy and, even more importantly, the owners are happy. I’m thrilled. We started this last year and it’s been a huge hit. The tails have been up the whole time.”

Which means dogs may enjoy more days at city wading pools next year.

“What I’m going to be doing this week is touching base with our pools and animal services folks to see what makes sense in terms of looking at maybe opening some of these wading pools once a week, or possibly once a month, during the summer months or even the idea of converting one or a number of these wading pools to permanent dog pools,” the mayor told me.

“We’d have to look at the current usage of children in these wading pools and where it would make sense based on the feedback. We’d have to do some due diligence about what’s possible and do some consultations.

“I think what’s more likely is just once a week, say Sundays would be the day, that a number of them would be (dog pools) just for that day. At this pool… the water is drained at the end of the day anyways.”

The idea of opening pools to canine residents stemmed from a conversation Bowman had with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi a couple of years ago.

“We were talking about amenities for dogs and how popular what they were doing in Calgary was. So we tried it out last year just to see how it would go, and it was an overwhelming success. I’m really pleased to see how many people are with us here today.”

He noted Winnipeggers have been howling with excitement over canine amenities such as the city’s new downtown dog park that opened in Bonnycastle Park last year.

“What we’ve seen with the downtown dog park is a sense of community that happens when dogs bring their owners to each other,” he said. “What we’re seeing here (at the wading pool) today is folks meeting each other, talking about their dogs. It’s all about community; it’s about bringing people together. That’s what we’ve seen with the downtown dog park.”

Of course, when you bring your dog for a swim you need to pay strict attention to the safety rules. Because you don’t want to step in a poodle.