A Message from your Friends – Why Do I Need to Keep my Dog on a Leash in Fish Creek?
Calgary is a dog-loving city. You may have one or more dogs, have had a dog in the past, or are considering adopting a new furry family member. For thousands of years, dogs and humans have existed together and enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. In an urban setting like Calgary, dogs are used less for work, and more for companionship and home security – even the smallest of dogs can sound the alarm at the first indication of an unwelcome guest. Dogs are truly cherished family members, and like people, each dog has a unique personality. Fish Creek Provincial Park is a vast urban greenspace that experiences over 4 million visits each year, a number that is sure to increase as the city continues to grow. Dog walking is one of the most popular activities in the park, and the extensive pathway system is perfect for going on long walks with your four-legged best friend. Dogs love Fish Creek for the bustling activity, the open spaces and waterways, the smells, the friendly people and the other dogs.
We know that dogs love running freely, and pet owners want their dogs to be happy! However, off-leash dogs can be at risk in wild spaces like Fish Creek Provincial Park for several different reasons:
- They can surprise or disturb wildlife, inviting potential conflict or injury to your pet. They could be kicked by a protective deer, sprayed by a skunk or be quilled by a porcupine, all of which could lead to costly vet bills, or worse. A small or medium-sized off-leash dog can look like a tasty meal for a coyote, whereas an on-leash dog may encourage the coyote to look elsewhere. And since Fish Creek is a natural wildlife corridor that funnels wildlife from Alberta’s eastern slopes, run-ins with a bear or cougar are also possible, bringing risk to everyone.
- Off-leash dogs can give chase or attack wildlife or harass and injure park wildlife.
- There are also different natural hazards that might put your off-leash friend at risk, such as gopher holes and thorny bushes, not to mention hazards associated with busy park trails, pathways and roadways, which can pose a significant threat to a wandering off-leash dog.
Many park visitors may not know that it is illegal to have dogs off leash in Alberta’s provincial parks – such as Fish Creek – while others may be aware of the regulation and simply choose not to follow it. Off-leash dogs represent one of the most common provincial park infractions, and the Friends of Fish Creek increasingly hear stories from park visitors about dogs running wild or visitors being approached by unwelcome dogs. There have even been reports of dog owners responding rudely when asked about keeping their dog on leash. Fines for not having your dog on a leash or not picking up after your dog range from $115 to $2000.
Keeping your dog on a leash is also an act of respect for other park users, who may not appreciate being approached or jumped on by a dog. Some people are fearful or uncomfortable around dogs, or may be allergic to them, and while most people feel their pets are well-trained and gentle, that is not always the case. Invasive plant species can also be further spread throughout our park by being transported on the fur of an off-leash dog, further compounding the issue we already have with invasive plants. This will not happen if you keep your dog on-leash and stay to the park’s pathways. And while we are on the subject of dogs, please be sure to pick up after your pet, and properly dispose of their waste in garbage bins. We have learned that one of peoples’ biggest “pet” peeves is when people leave dog waste bags along the park pathways. And while most people would agree that this is unsightly, there is also an associated safety risk, as dog waste can act as an attractant to large carnivores, such as bears.
Many officially-designated off-leash dog parks exist in our city, and these are the best and safest places for dogs to run wild, play fetch and socialize with others in their special dog way! A list of off leash areas can be found at https://www.calgary.ca/csps/parks/locations/off-leash-area-locations.html.
Thank you for keeping your dog on a leash less than 6 feet in length in Fish Creek Provincial Park, as this is the best way to protect them and others! Consider sharing your awareness of responsible pet ownership with others when you visit.