City councils want to pass legislation against off-leash dogs

Some Ottawa councilors would like to see greater enforcement of rules requiring dogs to be kept on a leash.  (Matthew Kupfer/CBC - photo credit)

Some Ottawa councilors would like to see greater enforcement of rules requiring dogs to be kept on a leash. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC – photo credit)

Ottawa City Councils want legislation to hire more officers to enforce rules in city parks, especially when it comes to off-leash dogs.

The City of Ottawa’s proposed budget for 2023 adds no new jobs for civil servants or firefighters, while the medical service will increase by 14 jobs. The Emergency and Protection Services Committee portion of the budget was approved Monday, totaling $361 million for operations this year.

count. Jeff Leiper, from the Kitchissippi community, pointed out that some dog owners let their pets off the leash, knowing that enforcement is low, especially in winter.

“It’s not all parks in the community, though [I’ve got] one or two parks that are great parks to enjoy, where people’s enjoyment … is made inaccessible due to off-leash dogs,” Leiper said.

In the suburban community of Kanata South, this is also a problem for Coun. Allan Hubley pointing out park rubbish bins overflowing with people who had left their household bags behind. As for dog waste, the Animal Control Act states that residents should dispose of dog waste at home.

“Sports fields are being ruined because dogs are constantly walking on them and pet owners are not chasing them,” Hubley said. A lack of law enforcement means park employees have to empty bins and maintain more regularly, the city council added, which also comes at a cost.

Bylaws director Roger Chapman told the committee the department tends to respond to complaints rather than proactively enforce rules, as the latter would be very costly. In the summer, the department assigns a half-dozen summer students to monitor Ottawa’s most troubled parks, he said, but promised to explore what might be possible before the final March 1 budget vote.

interim budget

In recent years, the bylaws department has struggled to deal with the high number of complaints, but the situation has improved, Chapman said.

Before the pandemic, each officer handled maybe 1,200 calls a year, but now it’s closer to 800, which Chapman thinks is closer to the manageable range.

The bylaws department is analyzing call volume after the unusual pandemic times to see what the “new normal” is, he said. Spending of $32 million is expected this year.

Chapman’s boss agreed that 2023 is a transition year, and not just for the bylaws department.

Kim Ayotte, general manager of the Department of Emergency and Protection Services, plans to make recommendations for the council’s new four-year term on what is needed to address various challenges.

One such problem is a persistent and worsening shortage of ambulances. The city recorded 1,819 cases of so-called level zero in 2022, which is more than double the record number of 2021.

Ayotte said the city could never hire enough paramedics to fix this problem. He pointed out that it would also be unfair for the city to try, as ambulances are stuck in hospital emergency rooms due to a much larger health care crisis in the province.

For now, the city budget in 2023 is adding 14 paramedic positions — a carryover of the previous city council’s approach — bringing the total headcount for this service to 727 positions with total spending of $130.7 million.

Kate Porter/CBC

Kate Porter/CBC

The fire department expects to spend $182.7 million on operations in 2023, which includes 975 full-time positions. A $2.7 million equity financing will be provided for a new fire station in Kanata North.

Future recalibrations in Ayotte’s department could also account for frequent natural disasters like last spring’s Derecho storm, as well as costly protests and events like the truck convoy and the university’s panda soccer game.

count. Rawlson King asked if a reserve fund could be established for such expenses. As it stands, the city is still awaiting financial help for the Derecho purge and is instead turning to its Tax Stabilization Reserve as a backstop.

Councilors also wanted to ensure lessons learned from protesting the truck convoys or damaging storms are implemented, particularly to help community organizations prepare for natural disaster response.

Broadly speaking, Committee Chair is Coun. Riley Brockington felt the 2023 budget made some smart decisions, like hiring more paramedics, with limited resources.


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