Re: Proposed dog boarding bylaw amendments, Dec 15, 2015

Tuesday, December 22 2015

I am sorry to see the Islands Trust Trustees attacked so vehemently over the question of in-home dog sitting or dog boarding in Small Rural Residential (SRR) zones. Personally, I think they’re doing a good job.

The Islands Trust mandate is to encourage small business, while preserving the rural nature - as opposed to allowing urbanization - of the island. According to a recent survey from the Chamber of Commerce, 68 per cent of businesses on Gabriola are home-based and without them we would be a poor island indeed. Home-based businesses go with the territory.

It isn’t just one or two dog sitter/boarders who are affected here - it is also the pet owners who need this service, for holidays, off-island shopping, emergencies. Why send this economic activity off-island when we so badly need employment right here and when for many people, it is an essential service?

I hope Ms. Blanchard and Ms. Hodgeson understand that any change to an existing bylaw requires a public process, even clarifying or defining ambiguous terms, such as “kennel.” Imagine the outcry if Trustees unilaterally changed a bylaw! Ergo time, energy and money is spent on the review of dog-sitting/boarding on SRR lots, as with any other change. The resentment is unfortunate, but this is what democracy looks like.

“Hundreds” of dog-sitting/boarding establishments popping up? There are currently only two professional dog sitters/boarders on SRR lots that I know of. There are not sufficient numbers of pet dogs to support half a dozen, let alone “hundreds.” Casual dog-sitting/boarding between friends is still allowed and is not affected by Trust bylaws unless money changes hands. So as in urban areas and apartment buildings, dog-sitting/boarding is going to happen, but not necessarily as a commercial enterprise. 

Potential well contamination? Maybe a feedlot with dozens of dogs would cause problems, but six dogs or so are not going to affect a well. And how about cats, chickens, roosters, ducks, goats and pigs - all of which go with the rural nature of the island and are common on SRR lots. All [of them] pee and poo, along with the deer, birds, raccoons etc. Have any wells been polluted by animals on Gabriola? I think we would have heard about it by now.

And oh, the barking - I carefully documented all barking over a three-month period. The worst day added up to six minutes and 40 seconds, with hours of silence in between barks. Most days see less than five minutes. I keep my doors and windows closed year round - we’re air conditioned - to mitigate the occasional and short-lived barking from inside the house. 

In fact the complaints that started off this controversy turned out to be in error. The only legitimate complaint levelled at me was one of my own dogs barking seven times at 10:15 on a Thursday evening, an isolated event. The other three (all from the same people) turned out to be pet dogs in the neighbourhood barking after hours or barking incessantly and in one hilarious case, a group of six children pretending to be a pack of wolves. The other dog boarder has had no complaints at all. 

I agree that the RDN noise bylaws are not enforced adequately. This controversy has revealed that several neighbourhoods are plagued with incessantly barking dogs. Roaming dogs and lack of pick-up are also problems. No one wants this, particularly me.

But these are not boarded dogs, they are people’s badly-managed pets.

The Trust is carefully developing sensible regulations, which for the most part I support, and which I have no doubt will be enforced vigorously by the bylaw officers. The outcome will be determined by fact-based exploration of the effects of dog-sitting/boarding in a neighbourhood - not by rather ludicrous fear-mongering as in the letters of December 15. 

I too feel that the “hoo-ha” created over the dog sitting/boarding issue is out of proportion, but it isn’t the Trust who created the drama. It is inflammatory, exaggerated, ill-informed and disingenuous letters of complaint that have stirred this particular pot. 

Sincerely, 

Penny Sidor

Penny’s Pet Care