Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Pet Expert: Incorporating Pet Spaces Into Urban Planning

There’s plenty of buzz around Meaford lately, with proposed residential developments happening, seemingly, in all areas of town. On top of that, the Official Plan is being developed, which will set out guidelines for parklands and greenspace going forward. To ensure residents have the opportunity to connect with nature and spend more time outdoors, city planning will require a certain percentage of greenspace with all new developments. This space may include walking trails, playground space, park benches, foliage, and more. What they don’t require, however, is pet-specific green space.

Dogs are clearly the most common companion animal, not only in Meaford, but globally as well. Of the nearly eight billion people on this planet, it is estimated that over one third of them own a dog – that’s two and a half billion people!

As new housing developments are completed, and Meaford’s population grows, so too will the canine population. This means more public spaces will be needed for residents and tourists alike to spend time outdoors with their beloved four-legged companions.

In our community, the Memorial Park Dog Beach and the Beautiful Joe Off-leash Dog Park provide much needed leash-free spaces for dogs to stretch their legs and get the exercise they need.

In order to meet the most important core requirements for a satisfied, well-balanced dog, exercise plays an irreplaceable role. As a proud pet-friendly town, it serves Meaford to be proactive, rather than reactive, to the increasing need for safe pet-friendly public spaces. Like humans, exercise is among the most important components for the well-being of dogs. Without adequate exercise, dogs may develop unwanted behavioural issues, like destroying things around the home, excessive barking and whining, unwanted weight gain, and more.

All of Meaford’s public parks and greenspaces are pet-accessible, however leashes are required to be used at all times – including while in the water. Dogs are also welcome on Meaford’s many picturesque hiking trails as well, but again must follow leash bylaws.

While the pet-friendly public spaces Meaford offers are more than adequate for our current population, that will certainly change as population density increases. Without the incorporation of more pet-friendly spaces, public parks will ultimately see a much higher concentration of canines in the future.

This could pose a number of problems.

Firstly, many dogs don’t do well in close proximity to other animals. Leash reactivity, fear of unknown dogs, and even over-stimulation can quickly manifest into troubling situations as canine behaviour becomes less predictable. This increases the risk of unwanted altercations – like fights and bites – and can increase the prospect of humans being injured as well. Fearful and overexcited dogs act more calmly (and more predictably) when they can maintain a safe distance from their reactive triggers.

Additionally, many people are uncomfortable around dogs, familiar or otherwise. Fear of dogs can be the result of many things, and a higher canine population may discourage some individuals from enjoying our public spaces to the best of their ability. This isn’t fair to those who want to enjoy Meaford’s public spaces, but have difficulties being in close proximity to dogs.

Meaford is a wonderful, budding community, and it must meet the needs of all its residents and visitors. These points (among others) demonstrate why incorporating more dedicated pet-friendly spaces is essential to the health and well-being of our community as our small town continues to grow.

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 www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.

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