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posted on June 26, 2008

City dog-bylaw officers have been unleashed on our parks to hound canine lovers and stop Rover from roving

By: MIKE STROBEL
Published: June 11, 2008
Source: Toronto Sun

There's a big stink at Ashbridge's Bay. And I don't just mean the sewage plant.

Such a peaceful park, too, especially when, like yesterday, mist rolls over Woodbine Beach and turns the basswoods a satin grey.

But menace hides in those trees and in the long grass and along the sandy trails.

"I'm looking over my shoulder all the time," says Krisy Tengberg, 49, walking her yellow Lab, Max.

"You never know when they're going to jump out of the bushes."

Tension is so high, the locals have taken to wearing whistles to warn each other.

"They're too aggressive," says Harry Kitamura, 67, who ought to know. He's a retired tax auditor.

"They can't go pushing people around like this."

They? American tourists? Druggies? Canada geese?

No. City dog-bylaw officers.

The Leash Police.

This spring, they have descended like sea gulls on Ashbridge's Bay, Sackville Park and other green patches.

CAMERAS, GPS

They are armed with binoculars, cameras, GPS and ticket books. They prowl in pickup trucks.

Let Rover rove at your peril. A leash violation costs 260 bucks.

Krisy got dinged one cool, damp morn two weeks ago.

It was 8 a.m., no one was about and she figured, what the hell, Max needs a run. So she turned him loose.

Bam! Two bylaw officers, apparently staked out by the tennis courts, screeched up in their white pickup.

She says they summonsed her and added: "If you warn anyone else we're here, we'll double the fine."

A few juicy words were exchanged and Krisy leashed Max. The officers, known locally as Frick and Frack, drove off.

Next thing, Krisy heard "Leave me alone!" from the rocky point on the west end of the beach.

The voice belonged to a regular park-goer, a 70ish Vietnam vet with leukemia.

His Lab, Rocky, was leashed. But the Pooch Patrol said something as they passed the old soldier. He suggested they buzz off, or words to that effect.

I wish I could say that was that. But there is bad blood in Ashbridge's Bay Park.

The two officers piled out of their truck.

Krisy and Harry (who was up a nearby hillock) both say the bylaw officers grabbed the man and marched him across the beach.

A passing bicycle cop cooled things out. No charges were filed.

But why the hell are city bylaw officers browbeating a war vet who has leukemia? No matter what he said to them.

Harry says he went over to tell the bike cop what he'd seen. One of the bylaw officers instantly turned to Harry and demanded to see his dog Bogey's tag.

Well, you have to admire the zeal.

I know what some of you are thinking. Break the law, even slightly, and you pay the price. But what of common sense?

How'd you like to be pulled over for driving 101 klicks on the 401?

"If there's people around, I wouldn't dream of letting my dog off-leash," says Joanne Nelson. She walks Jack, her terrier, and Quilla, a Doberman, at Sackville Park.

She's fighting two tickets from the Leash Police.

"This is heavy-handed and authoritarian," she says.

Neighbour Gary Helps says a bylaw officer has vowed to catch him with his pup un-leashed.

"I have had to duck down back alleys and side streets ... I am being hunted and hounded as if I were a criminal."

Another Corktowner, Steve Behal, suggests a moratorium on tickets until the city can organize more off-leash parks.

I call the bylaw officers, who put me on to media relations, who put me on to the top dog, parks director Paul Ronan.

"When you get pulled over for speeding or something, you're never happy to get a ticket," says Ronan.

"It's a very difficult situation for our officers. They're simply responding to complaints in an area about off-leash dogs and I believe they're doing their very best."

HERCULEAN VIGOR

Yes. They are doing their jobs with herculean vigor.

I wonder if there is a better way for the city to spend the money and energy it takes to hound dog-lovers.

Like capping the stench from the sewage plant.

Now, that would make Ashbridge's Bay a better park.


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