A closeup of a dog with a wrinkly face looking like it has just seen a ghost.

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Who Let the Dogs Out?

Maybe tomorrow, I'll want to settle down, until tomorrow...

Tofino’s hotly contested leash laws are getting a second look

Have you ever been to Berlin?

If you haven’t, here’s a quick description of what you’d see there.

Stunning architecture, donair shops on every corner, and the most well-trained off-leash dogs you’ve seen in your life.

They stroll freely through the middle of the busy city right at the heels of their humans, patiently sitting outside stores while they do their shopping.

In fact, the only ones wearing leashes out in public in Berlin are humans.

Sigh, don’t even ask.

It’s pretty wild to see as a Canadian. Since when is it even possible to train dogs so well?

If anything, it makes you rethink the leash laws we have here.

Especially in places like Tofino, which is 99 percent open woods and beaches.

Well, dog owners in Tofino must have gone on some Euro trips recently. They’re banding together to take Town Council to task over restrictive leash laws.

“For non-dog owners, I know that this may seem like a less important issue than some of the things on the councils’ table. To dog owners, these pets are members of our family, and these walks take up hours of our day,” wrote local Ann MacDonnell.

On December 5th, the council is unleashing a discussion of the district’s hotly contested leash laws.

“We encourage all parties interested in the off-leash dog discussion to attend the December 5th committee of the whole meeting,” said Tofino mayor Dan Law during the council’s first regular meeting of the term on November 8th. “That will be a chance for the council to discuss the issue and, hopefully, we can all look for ways of finding a copacetic solution.”

His announcement was in response to three letters sent by local dog owners who are pushing back against a recent rush of bylaw ticketing for off-leash dogs.

Despite the practice being quite normalized in open areas, it is still technically prohibited everywhere in the town.

“Bylaw staff approaching locals before 8 a.m. on empty beaches in off-season yet no bylaw presence for large groups of tourists on busy beaches throughout summer months seems unbalanced and fruitless,” wrote Erica Rutter, suggesting bylaw mainly targets locals while ignoring the hazard of German shepherds running around town off-leash.

“I am a local and a dog owner who would like you to reconsider the structure of the recent enforcement of restrictions for off-leash dogs in all public places,” wrote Erica Rutter.

Rutter noted that the council’s beach fire ban gave people space to continue having fires in designated spaces, rather than ban them outright.

“I urge you to consider alternative options instead of mostly penalizing locals at all times of day, on all beaches, throughout all seasons,” she wrote.

Andrea Ellsworth-Turner wrote that she would be outright ignoring a ticket she received for walking her dog on Chesterman Beach.

“In response, I said that I plan to continue to walk my dog off-leash until there is an alternative off-leash option for dogs in town. A reminder of one of the many ways that Tofino caters mainly to tourism and not the locals,” she wrote.

I guess everyone is over being terrorized by foreign furries.

One thing both dogs and and their owners need, though, is plenty of exercise.

Ellsworth-Turner added that her young dog needs a space where it’s free to run to stay healthy.

“If we can’t let our dogs off-leash on the beach, where can they get proper exercise?” she asked.

Ann MacDonnell wrote that at least one of Tofino’s beaches should be designated as off-leash.

“There are many tourists and locals alike that enjoy Tofino because of its dog-friendly atmosphere and its large beaches to let dogs run freely and get quality exercise,” she wrote.

“It’s also extremely important that dogs socialize and sniff new scents. Most local dog owners do not have fenced-in yards where we can let our dogs roam freely… The beaches and trails are key areas where we can all exercise together and enjoy the outdoors, and it’s very important for dog training.”

Neighbouring communities, like Ucluelet, all have designated off-leash areas for all.

“This is impacting our lifestyle and a huge part of why we love to call Tofino home,” said MacDonnell. “Improving the details of these restrictions while considering the opinions of those who are affected most is greatly appreciated.”

We’ll see how the discussions go next week. For now, we’re just glad to see locals working to advance dog culture—and stop humans from appropriating it.