Did You Know: Calgary Has Leash Laws

Yesterday the hot topic in local news and social media was the story of a person walking his/her dogs off-leash in an on-leash area at Nose Hill Park: one of the dogs got caught in a toothless trap designed to catch coyotes for a University of Calgary research study, performed in conjunction with the City of Calgary.

Those are the facts and you can check out the hyperlinks for more details.

Outrage ensued, Twitter and Facebook fired up, and complaints were made to the City, the University, and the Humane Society, such that the study was put on pause less than 24 hours after the incident.

If you ask me, this seems like blaming a car for hitting you when you purposefully walk into oncoming traffic.

The dog was off-leash… in an on-leash area.  The traps were specifically put in densely wooded on-leash areas (and are only active between sunset and sunrise) to prevent this very thing.  And to suggest a child could get caught in them as well (as I’ve seen some do) is just hyperbole.

One affronted person tweeted an Alderman to ask what bylaws apply to this situation.

Let me tell you: Bylaw Number 23M2006, section 12, which states owners of dogs shall ensure they are not running at large, meaning off-leash, not under control, and can still include on-leash dogs if they cause harm or distress to others.

Alma and Moses in Nose Hill Park. Note the leashes, the close proximity to me as I take photos, and the controlled sit-stay. 

This dogs-at-large rule applies to both on-leash and off-leash areas.  So yes, that even means if you can’t control your dog at the dog park – have them come in when you call, for example – that is still considered “at large” even if it’s a designated off-leash area.

Outside of designated off-leash areas, dogs are to be on leashes no more than 2 metres long (that means, yes, flexi-leashes are against bylaw!).  While on city pathways, dogs are to walk on your right-hand side away from oncoming pedestrians, bikes, and other dogs, and are not to interfere with others.   It’s all in the bylaw; did I just blow your mind?

As for the case at hand, the University research team posted signs in the parks at least 50 metres from the traps.  This means as the owner was reading the sign, the dogs was out of sight and 50 metres away – not under control or on-leash, and therefore definitely at large.

Nose Hill Park frequently has signs posted warning of studies, surveys, animal warnings, and pesticide sprays.

Now I know most signage gets ignored – Caution, Hot!  Wet Paint.  Please Use Other Door.  Cash Only.  Out of Order. Slippery Floors – but as a responsible dog owner using a large park that is famous for coyotes (obviously, hence the study), deer, and porcupines, caution and awareness should be your priority.

Rather than throwing the hammer down on the City and the University for undertaking a study that undoubtedly will have interesting results that are beneficial to dog owners (lots of little dogs lose their lives to coyotes in that very park every year), I’d prefer to see this situation touted as an educational opportunity to better inform the public about leash laws, training, and responsible pet ownership.

Because the bottom line is that if the dog was on-leash as it should have been, this never would have happened.

Geez, pair this with the Nose Hill Gentlemen incident and perhaps it’s better to avoid that park altogether.  (I jest.)

As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to look out for your dog’s safety and wellbeing at all times.  That means staying on-leash in on-leash areas, observing pet bylaws, undergoing training, and being realistic about the control and supervision you have in off-leash situations.  If you can’t guarantee their safety, don’t take the risk.

Not to mention, it’s irresponsible or unaware owners who ruin it for the rest of us by creating valid complaints about this city’s dog owners and their perceived lack of care and attention to park and pathway etiquette and bylaws.

These are the very bylaws that earn Calgary international praise for our Responsible Pet Ownership mandate and help keep unfortunate dog incidents out of the news, but that doesn’t mean very much if no one knows about them or abides by them.

The good news is that the dog in question walked away from the incident free of harm, but unfortunately, in my opinion, the media and commentary surrounding the story has missed the lesson entirely.

The Husband, myself, and Moses at Nose Hill Park

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About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

17 Responses to Did You Know: Calgary Has Leash Laws

  1. Karen M. says:

    I LOVE THIS!!! I could not agree with you more! As a responsible dog owner I am sick and tired of seeing dogs off leash in on-leash areas, especially at Nose Hill. It’s only off leash on the plateau, and not in all areas there either, but it is rare to see anyone besides me with their dogs on leash below the top. And people look at you like “oh, poor doggie, has to be on leash” and some have commented “oh, does she not come back when you call her”.

    One bothersome detail of this story is that it was a dog trainer/dog walker who blogged about this and was on the news, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was breaking the bylaw in more than one way, as you pointed out. That is very disappointing and I agree with you that the media could have used this as an opportunity to highlight the leash laws in the park and elsewhere.

    • Jade says:

      I was on the news but it wasn’t my dog that was caught in the trap thank you. When I first learned about this story there was 0 information about whether this was even a legitimate study.

      I do obey leash laws and was concerned about why there were leg traps in Nose Hill Park and also what area they were in.

  2. While I feel bad the dog got its leg caught in a trap, I totally agree with this post. I live in an area with leash laws too, and I am tired of running into free roaming dogs, that run up to my dogs while I’m walking them. If you are in an area with a leash law, and your dog runs off and gets into trouble, you have no one to blame but yourself.

  3. Shawna says:

    I break this particular by-law all the time! And I’m proud of it too. Heck, I even have an on-leash area right behind my house and I only put my dog on-leash when I see another dog that is on-leash coming towards me. But most of my neighbours let their dogs go off-leash too. And yet I would still say that I’m a very responsible pet owner. You might not break this by-law, but tell me, do you break any other by-laws that pertain to your dog. This is only one example, but I seem to recall being told in hiking group that it was okay not to pick up your dog’s poop, especially if it fell off the beaten path and your dog was on raw food. I guess we all get to pick and choose which by-laws we feel are okay to break.

    Yes, it is too bad that this dog fell victim to a trap, but thankfully it didn’t get hurt. When going off-leash in on-leash areas there is a risk that is taken and I will always accept the consequences. Same goes for when off-leash in the designated areas. Dogs can still fall victim to encounters with porcupines, for example. Simply put, there is always a risk when going off-leash no matter where you are. But I feel it is worthwhile risk to take, especially when I see the pure joy and bliss that my dog exhibits when she’s running through tall grasses, and simply getting to run from tree to tree smelling all the different scents that have captivated her attention.

    • thatjenk says:

      I appreciate the varying opinion, but on-leash areas are on-leash for a reason – and the traps were put in on-leash areas to specifically prevent what eventually happened. That a research study gets halted because one person doesn’t know any better or chooses to disobey rules is ridiculous – if the dog was on-leash as it was supposed to be, all would have been avoided. Or even if it wasn’t permitted to run 50+ meters out of sight of its owner, the situation would have been different. Or even if the person read the signs before letting the dogs run free. A lot of obvious things were missed/ignored.

      However, you noted you accept the risks off-leash, and I wish the owner of the dog in question had done the same. The dog was freed and because it was a toothless, padded leg hold trap, no injuries were sustained. Therefore, rather than stirring up a firestorm of outrage and blaming the City and the U of C for his/her mistakes, maybe some personal responsibility should have been accepted, and a warning out to people to observe leash laws instead.

      In the end, I still recommend the safest, most prudent way to enjoy off-leash as many do is to go to a designated area or private property. Lots of pure joy to be had without taking unnecessary risks and blatantly ignoring bylaws.

      And lastly: Noting that some hikers don’t pick up after their dogs in thick bush is a violation of pick-up rules, yes, but unless you’ve heard it from me (and you haven’t, and I’d suggest those who bag poop and leave it on the side of the trail are WAY worse anyway), I don’t see the point of bringing it up; they are different issues. Leash laws are for obvious and immediate safety reasons for you, your dog, and others (and their dogs, bikes, kids). I agree you should always make an effort to pick up poop, but the comparison in the bylaws doesn’t work (noting a health issue about disease transmission to wild animals, but still not super relevant).

      Having big dogs and taking them every where I can, I try to be a good ambassador where ever I go – walking down the street, in the park, the off-leash park, and hiking in the mountains. Nothing bothers me more than when other dog owners ruin it for the rest of us.

      • Shawna says:

        I’ll write one more thing too…I completely agree with you that personal responsibility should have been accepted and that a warning along with some by-law education should go out to people instead of halting the U of C study. It really is unfortunate that the study has been cancelled because of this one person.

        • thatjenk says:

          I’m glad we agree there – I’ve had half a dozen of close coyote encounters this summer in the middle of my suburban neighbourhood (in addition to the one written about here, and I now always carry an air horn on my walks), so I really think the value this study will add supremely outweighs the complaints of one person who didn’t follow rules, read signs, and whose dog got caught in unfortunate circumstance.

  4. Lindsay says:

    Well, Shawna, in my eyes you are not a responsible dog owner if you you blatantly choose to break one of the most important bylaws in our city when it comes to your dog. And no, I do not break any of the pet bylaws – I always pick up after my dogs (and not it is not OK to leave your dog’s poop, no matter what it eats or where it falls; no intelligent person would believe anyone who told you otherwise), I never let them bark and annoy my neighbors, I don’t let them bite or scare people, I keep my cats indoors, etc.

    The fact that you say you are “proud of it too” shows how selfish you really are.

    • Shawna says:

      Touchy subject, indeed! If you actually knew me, you might think differently of me. Or perhaps you wouldn’t, who knows. Anyway, I’m guessing that you never went through the Clever Canines training program, because they are the ones that actually encourage you to break a few of the by-laws, or at least they did when I went through the program. The poop, for instance was one. Also, leaving your dog in the car after training class while going out for beers. And here’s another one, leashing your dog outside of a convenience store or coffee shop while you go inside to buy something. I’m glad that you follow all the by-laws and consider yourself extremely responsible. I say that I am too because as I said, there is always a risk when letting your dog go off-leash, whether it is a designated area or not. I simply use my own common sense and judgement as to whether I choose to let my dog off-leash or not.

      • thatjenk says:

        Obviously I’m going to jump in here and say Clever Canines is the only company (I know of) who actually has had a representative from City Bylaw come in and teach their clients about the dog bylaws, and set aside time in each core class to address them (sidewalk/pathway behaviour is addressed at the outset in each program at least since I was first a client in 2008). Dogs in unattended closed vehicles is fine provided the weather allows it. Any tethered dogs in class are always supervised, and they always note unsupervised tethering is against bylaw.

        • Shawna says:

          Excellent! I’m glad to hear of the positive changes.

        • thatjenk says:

          Of course I should note – so as to not drag unwitting others in – that while clarifying certain points, this blog and all of my posts/comments remain my own and my own personal opinions and experiences, and aren’t in the capacity of an employee of either of my employers.

  5. Leigh says:

    I have taken many obedience classes in Calgary over the past 16 years, most recently through Sit Happens….if any of the instructors had encouraged clients not to follow City bylaws I would have insisted on a refund, quit the class and complained formally to the manager/owner of the business.

    If you are letting your dog off-leash in an on-leash area, you are not, in my opinion, exercising common sense or good judgement. You are, as Lindsay put it, only acting selfishly and putting your own wants and needs above everyone elses.

    • Shawna says:

      Well Leigh, you are missing my point: because a sign says that a specific area is an off-leash area, that doesn’t mean that it is safe for all dogs. A person still needs to use their best judgement. Porcupines don’t know where the line is, nor do the deer, rabbits or coyotes. Everyone takes a risk when going off-leash, especially at Nose Hill, even in the designated off-leash areas. To attack me and call me selfish and to say that I’m not exercising common sense is not a fair assessment of me at all. I take my dog’s life very seriously and I know you all do too, that’s why this is such a heated topic. I survey the landscape and I try hard to spot wildlife before my dog does and when I do, I leash her up to protect her. And I do this in on-leash and off-leash areas.

      Think about this… aren’t you acting selfishly and exhibiting a lack of common sense whenever you go over the speed limit because you are late for work or that appointment? Whenever you eat a snack or sip a drink while driving. Or worse yet, whenever you answer your phone while driving regardless of hands-free or not? I’m guilty of all of these transgressions and if you say that you aren’t, then I really do have to wonder about you.

      The fact that I choose to ignore “some” on-leash signage is a minor misdemeanor in the grand scheme of it all. So call me selfish and irresponsible all you want. My guess is, is that I have more wits about me than you, especially if you need signs to tell you what’s safe or not.

  6. 2browndawgs says:

    Not a fan of leg traps where any dog may be running. Heck could have been a stray or a dog that got loose by mistake. I tried to see just what the trap looked like, but I did not see a picture. Surely there was a better way to capture the coyotes than using a leg trap.

    I guess we are guilty of having our dogs off lead in parks since we do most of our training in the city parks around here. Of course we don’t have the dogs out of our sight and we don’t train at night, but they are off lead in on lead areas.

    • thatjenk says:

      In the researcher’s defence, they are padded toothless leg-hold traps, and the research team is notified as soon as one is set off so they can head right out and put the GPS collar on the coyote and set them free – or simply set free any other animal who may get caught. There are signs with contact numbers if someone’s dog gets caught. Local news has footage of the traps here, if you’re curious: http://www.globaltvcalgary.com/video/nose+hill+traps/video.html?v=2272388997&p=8&s=dd#video

      I know many bend or break the leash laws, but control and personal responsibility are the main points I’m trying to make. Blaming the city and the University for someone else’s mistake isn’t appropriate, and I don’t think anyone commenting here would’ve had such an outrageous reaction.

  7. Pingback: I’m a Big Fat Hypocrite | Back Alley Soapbox

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