Thanks to local dog ownership advocates

Among the long list of reasons I have for loving this community and feeling like it’s simply the best place to live and raise a family, is the fact that I truly believe this is the best place in Toronto to own a dog! We are blessed with a community that is exceptionally ‘dog friendly’ and of course we have the ultimate dog playground right on our sandy doorstep.

What many people perhaps don’t realize is how much we have a small local organization to thank for this: the Toronto Beaches Dog Association. In fact the mission statement of the TBDA is to “Make the Beaches the best place in Toronto to own a dog.”

The TBDA was formed in early 2009 by Chris Yaccato along with Danielle Hudson, Georgie Thewens, Linda Wells, Ronn Stevenson and Bruce Baker in response to the city’s plan at the time to impose a complete ban on dogs off leash on the beach outside of the (then barely) fenced-in off-leash area. For many years prior, the beach was open to dogs off leash, south of the snow fence throughout the winter. As part of the admirable and very successful plan to secure and maintain ‘blue flag’ status for our beaches, the city proposed the ban. The TBDA swung into action and after petitions, letters and meetings with the city, the city agreed that allowing our dogs to run free during the winter months would not affect either their plans to clean up the beach or the enjoyment of other beach goers. Without the TBDA efforts the beach would be deserted from October to April and our dogs would have to play elsewhere.

What impresses me most about this organization is that they did not stop there. Recognizing that dog owners had been afforded a privilege worth protecting they have since focused on initiatives to help ensure that everyone, not just dog owners, gets to enjoy our beautiful beaches.

One such initiative is their annual Beachy Clean Day. This April 14 will be the fifth year for this event. Volunteers meet at 11 a.m. at the Leuty Lifeguard station and embark on a two-hour scouring of the beach to clean up a winter’s worth of dropped and washed up garbage and of course the odd carelessly left poop. This event has been a huge success every year so far and the pictures on their website ( testify to that. The effort typically produces a small mountain of trash to be removed, preparing the entire beach for another summer of enjoyment.

The association was also instrumental in working with the city’s parks department to replace the decrepit fencing that surrounded the Leuty off-leash area with vastly improved and significantly more attractive wooden fencing.

Another significant area of focus for the association is promoting proper etiquette for dog owners. Making sure that everyone, dog owner or not, gets to enjoy the beach is the best way to ensure that we don’t have to fight for this privilege again. Their website has this guide to dog etiquette:

1. During the summer months keep your dog on a leash at all times;

2. During the summer months keep your dog off the beach (except from the two off-leash dog parks);

3. Pick up after your pet;

4. Be courteous, not everyone likes dogs;

5. Keep your dog away from children;

6. Be diligent when your dog is off leash in the dog park;

7. Make sure you keep an eye on your dog while off leash;

8. If your dog is off leash and someone asks you to keep your dog away from them please respect their request;

9. During the winter months your dog can go off leash south of the snow fence;

10. Most importantly, please respect all beach users.

Every now and then I see dogs who, for whatever reason, just don’t seem to like people. More often than not the dog’s history suggests that they have either had a bad experience with a person, or probably more commonly, little to no experience at all. It is important to remember that the same is true in reverse for many people. A negative previous experience or no previous experience with dogs will certainly make someone wary. People can’t all be expected to share our love of dogs, and it’s very important to respect this. You may be confident that your own dog poses no threat to anyone walking off leash along the boardwalk, but others have no way of knowing this for certain. No one should feel threatened in any way when they enjoy this neighbourhood, whether they are seasoned Beachers or just visiting for the day.

I think we all owe the Toronto Beaches Dog Association a big “thank you” for its efforts to help make this community what it is. So, remember your dog etiquette when enjoying our beaches and if possible come on out on April 14 and join in the effort to clean up the beach for another great summer.

As for the TBDA; keep up the great work, and as far as our community being the best in Toronto to own a dog, I say mission accomplished! Let’s all do our part to keep it that way!

Dr. Nigel Skinner

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