Dogs are no longer allowed to run free at Gonzales Beach after the Canadian Wildlife Service informed Victoria council that allowing unleashed pets at the beach is endangering migrating birds and violates federal regulations.
At its Thursday meeting, council approved removing Gonzales Beach from the city’s designated off-leash areas in the Animal Responsibility Bylaw. Before Thursday’s vote, dogs were allowed to be off-leash at the beach from Sept. 1 to May 31, but that didn’t align with federal regulations that apply to the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
In a letter to council on June 10, the Canadian Wildlife Service reminded the city of the federally regulated migratory bird sanctuary stretching along the region’s coast from 10 Mile Point, up the Gorge Waterway, to Portage Inlet. Within that space, regulation states that cat and dog owners are not allowed to permit their pets to run free. Gonzales Beach is the primary area where the bird sanctuary boundary overlaps with City of Victoria land, city staff said.
Owners must have “continuous and effective control of their animal within a migratory bird sanctuary by restraining or constraining it to ensure that the dog or cat is not capable of disturbing, harassing, harming or killing a migratory bird, their eggs, or their nest,” the letter stated.
Dogs, the letter continued, can displace birds, reduce their foraging rates, cause them to abandon nests, and increase their mortality rates. Many birds along the migratory sanctuary are already facing stressors and population declines, the wildlife service stated.
The letter added that Environment and Climate Change Canada has received numerous complaints from the public over interactions with off-leash dogs and migratory birds in Greater Victoria over the last few years. A study into the area is expected to be complete in the next year.
Staff noted residents of the Gonzales neighbourhood will still be able to take allow their pets off-leash at nearby Pemberton Park, Clover Point Park, Beacon Hill Park and Redfern Park. Victoria has about 15 designated off-leash areas in total.
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