Why does Winnipeg need more quality off-leash recreational space?
The most obvious reason why dogs need better access to recreational green space is because of dogs’ popularity.
Dogs are a fact of life. They have been living with humans for 15,000 years, contributing significantly to our quality of life. Dogs have worked alongside humans, herding and protecting livestock, hunting game, transporting people and property, and controlling vermin.
Winnipeg Animal Services estimates there are about 110,000 dogs in the city. That means approximately one in every three homes has a dog. Dogs are not going away so we need to help them be the best possible citizens they can be.Off-leash dog parks foster good canine citizenship.
Municipal leaders across North America have found dog parks enhance communities; they are relatively inexpensive to maintain and have no significant history of liability claims. (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association)
What’s the problem?
The problem is that only 100 hectares of Winnipeg’s 4000 hectares of parkland have been set aside for dog parks – less than 3% of the city’s green space.
And dog owners are losing the off-leash space they have at an alarming rate. The City recently closed Transcona and Steven Juba dog parks; the size of Maple Grove and Little Mountain has been significantly reduced and Charleswood and Brenda Leipsic are threatened with closure.
The city’s largest dog parks – Kilcona and Maple Grove have reached their carrying capacity. The number of dogs and dog owners warrants more off-leash recreational green space.
Why are off-leash dog parks good for communities?
Everyone benefits from off-leash area dog parks. They encourage healthy activities in public parks, help people to lose weight, lower cholesterol, ease stress and reduce public health care costs.
Photo credit: Colleen Blouin
Dog parks provide a place for outdoor events and activities, shelter dog training, adoption fairs, and outdoor canine film festivals/events.
IAMS rated the Kilcona Park Dog Club/IAMS National Dog Day in the Park in August 2013 the most successful in its 18 city cross-Canada tour because of the venue and the logistical support of the local club.
Photo credit: KPDC Inc.
Off-leash parks also increase opportunities for shelters and rescues to sucessfully place foster dogs in permanent homes.
Winnipeg Animal Services COO Leland Gordon showcases Nacho, an “adorable adoptable” at an off-leash event.
Photo credit: Kilcona Park Dog Club
Specific Dog Park Benefits
• Enclosed dog parks prevent off-leash dogs from infringing on the rights of community residents and park users.
• Dog parks enrich dogs’ lives. To keep dogs happy, healthy and out of trouble, they need exercise for their brains and bodies. Many undesirable behaviors are caused by a lack of physical and mental activity.
• Dogs’ wild relatives lead busy lives – their days are full of hunting, scavenging, avoiding predators and engaging in complex social interactions.
Dogs were born to lead active lives but, sadly, today many dogs spend their days alone at home napping on couches. No hunting or scavenging’s required; tasty meals are served up every day.
Without mental stimulation, companionship, and exercise dogs become bored, lonely and overweight.
With no way to expend excess energy, it’s not surprising that confined dogs find things to do that humans don’t like – un-stuffing couches, raiding trash cans and gnawing on shoes. A result of destructive behavior is that many dogs spend their days lock in their crates.
• An off-leash area’s a wonderful place for a dog to run to its heart’s content, investigating new smells, wrestling with dog buddies and fetching toys and sticks until it happily collapses. A tired dog’s a good dog!
• Dogs that exercise strenuously – running with other dogs, catching a ball, or chasing a Frisbee are better neighbours; less prone to excessive barking, destroying property, and biting.
• Winnipeg Animal Services COO, Leland Gordon says dog parks play an important role in preventing dog bites. “A dog well-socialized with various types of people and animals is less apt to bite. We encourage dog owners to visit one of the city dog parks for socialization opportunities.”
• Dogs, like humans, are highly social animals and many enjoy spending time with their own species.
Photo credit: Vince Pahkala
• At the dog park, a dog learns social skills. Dogs get lots of practice reading other dogs’ body language and using their own communication skills. Dogs get used to meeting unfamiliar dogs and people. These are valuable experiences
Well-socialized dogs are less likely to be fearful or aggressive toward strangers.
Well-socialized dogs don’t feel the need to display dominance with other dogs.