Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Pet Expert: Fishing Debris An Increasing Risk to Dogs at Beautiful Joe Park

As a proud member of Meaford’s rapidly growing pet industry, pet owners frequently come to me with questions or concerns regarding the safety of their pets in the community.

Recently, I had a conversation with Lisa Marie, a newer resident to Meaford, who expressed angst regarding an incident involving her beloved dog, Caicos. After returning from a refreshing walk at Beautiful Joe Park, Lisa Marie discovered a fishing line and hook tangled deep within his thick fur. Thankfully, the hook was removed and Caicos did not sustain any serious injuries, however the risk of serious injury was certainly palpable.

Unfortunately, Lisa Marie’s story is not an isolated incident. Over the past couple of months, I have heard from several members of the community whose dogs have suffered injury from hooks, lures, and fishing line during walks along the Big Head River.

Running alongside Beautiful Joe Park, the Big Head River has always been a popular spot for fishing. Additionally, the river is quite shallow in many spots, making it an ideal location for dogs to cool off on hot summer days. Unfortunately, snagged and broken-off hooks or lures can become easily lost in the river’s many driftwood or rocky areas, and aren’t always retrieved by fishermen. This creates an evident hazard to dogs, local wildlife, children, and adults; all who use the river for various endeavours.

How do we keep the Big Head river clean from these hazards?

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to clean up hooks, lures, and fishing line lost in the river, as they can be quite difficult to get to. Magnet fishing is one plausible solution – an increasingly popular hobby in which a strong magnet is cast into the river and dragged out by rope. Magnet fishing can be highly effective in collecting metal objects from the water. While this may be a method of removing some hooks and lures from the river, it would not efficiently remove all hazards, and would have to be done frequently and thoroughly.

Increased signage is another option, to alert all visitors that the river is a shared community space and must be treated respectfully at all times. It’s possible that out-of-towners aren’t aware of that fact. However, signage won’t curb the problem of hooks and lures getting lost in the water.

A designated ‘no fishing’ area could create a safer space for visitors to the river, human and canine alike, however lures and hooks can travel downstream, too. Fines could be introduced for leaving fishing equipment in the water, however consistent enforcement is burdensome to police for our already overworked bylaw department.

Aside from lures, hooks, and fishing line, fish guts have also become an increasing problem (garbage and broken glass are topics for another day). Fishing enthusiasts who clean their catch on the riverbanks will regularly discard the guts at the water’s edge, leaving them for the birds. Unfortunately, dogs will often roll in or eat these remains, leading to repugnant odours and risk of serious illness.

The question remains: In a dog-friendly community like ours, at a dog-centric public park, how can we make the waters and riverbanks at Beautiful Joe Park safe for everyone’s enjoyment?

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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