Fenced-in dog parks and the policy determining how they will be regulated in the future was passed by Council, though there was an amendment to allow only those age 17 and above inside the leash free areas unsupervised.
During a late night Monday Council meeting at 1 Carden St., a question was raised in the chambers over liability in regards to age inside the fenced-in areas.
It led to an amendment crafted by councillors and staff during a 10 minute break that stated children younger than six years of age will not be allowed to enter the fenced-in areas.
“Users under the age of 17 must be accompanied and supervised by an adult at all times in a fenced in leash free area,” the amendment added.
One user on Twitter found the change to be unrealistic, saying “there is no 16 or 17 [year old] that is ever supervised by an adult at all times.”
Another tweet read “those numbers seem arbitrarily chosen. Why [six]? Why 17?” Guelph Politico’s Adam Donaldson pointed out that it could be traced to being a “liability issue for the city”.
The first fenced in dog parks will come in at Bristol Street Park and Peter Misersky Park, to be completed within the year. Lee Street Park will also feature fences by 2020.
A staff report presented earlier in June at Committee of the Whole also recommended halting the practice of using unoccupied sports fields as leash free areas based on their research.
But Council requested that staff balance the findings of the report and still provide more accessible locations throughout the city.
Specifically, Council asked that staff consider a modification to the proposed policy to include definitions for unoccupied sports fields and identify a specific number of those fields that can be used as leash free areas when unoccupied.
In response, staff say they developed criteria for a hybrid model to be used by residents for the leash free areas. They aim to balance public safety and hygiene concerns as well as address operational issues that come out of dealing with a wider distribution of community assets for a variety of residents.
Staff identified four different field types that cannot be used across the city. “Premier sports fields” should not be used for dogs, they write, as they are have a high level of maintenance. Also excluded from consideration for hybrid use is land owned by third parties — which make up 13 sports fields in Guelph.
The city found 27 sports fields that are in close proximity to schools within the municipality. After consulting with various school boards, staff determined that for safety reasons, those fields should be excluded from the leash free list.
After tallying up the parks excluded and the ones already being considered at Bristol Street and Peter Misersky parks, staff found that the city has 41 sports fields that could be considered as “acceptable sites for leash free use when not occupied.”
Both off-leash, fenced-in areas considered for 2019 will be funded by existing city capital funds with an approved expenditure of some $200,000, according to the staff recommendations.
Mayor Cam Guthrie had a related platform plank in 2018, writing that he wanted to “create fenced-in dog parks across our city”.