Friday, September 10, 2010

Ajax Gets Tough On Off-Leash Dogs

AJAX -- Ajax dog owners are being asked to leash their pets or face fines as the Town's bylaw department is preparing for an enforcement blitz.
Derek Hannan, manager of bylaw services for the Town, said his department is currently conducting a public education campaign, asking dog owners who don't leash their pets to leash them. But within the next couple of weeks, they'll be moving to a zero-tolerance blitz with additional employees working in the morning and in the evening, enforcing the bylaw when most people walk their dogs, and issuing tickets to pet owners who let their dogs off the leash.
"We have recognized that dogs off leash are becoming a huge occurrence around town, in our parks, in our green spaces and in our community schools," said Mr. Hannan, adding that Town staff and councillors are receiving an increasing number of complaints about off-leash dogs.
A particular problem has been unleashed dogs at local schools.
"People are heading there after dinner and unclipping the dogs and letting them go ... a lot of those schools also have parks associated with them with small kids playing in them," said Mr. Hannan.
He points out that not every culture represented in Ajax is used to dogs in the family and people can be frightened even if a friendly dog runs to them.
Generally, the Town hands out about 25 fines per year but issues about 400 warnings. Each fine can be up to $500 and if the dog bites or attacks, it may be ordered restrained which means it would have to be muzzled when being walked. Ultimately, the dog could be ordered destroyed if it is a severe attack or is the second or third time it has attacked.
In Ajax, there are about 150 reports of animals attacks per year, with the vast majority of them involving dogs.
Mr. Hannan pointed out it's not just an issue of humans being attacked; in some cases dogs attack other dogs.
There are only two areas in Ajax where dogs can run leash free: the dog park on Westney Road just south of Bayly Street and an area in the Greenwood Conservation Area near the Church Street access.
Everywhere else, dogs must be leashed.
"It's not anything new, it's been in our bylaw for decades," said Mr. Hannan.
Owners are often shocked when their off-leash animal attacks.
"We're having owners saying 'I never dreamed my dog would attack or bite someone'," he said, adding that by the time they regret unleashing their dogs, it's too late.
"In Ajax, we're really lucky we have so many responsible pet owners, but unfortunately the ones who are not practising safe methods like keeping their dog on a leash are putting everyone at risk."
In addition to being on leashes, all Ajax dogs must be licensed by the Town.
The full dog and cat bylaw is available online at townofajax.com.

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