Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Pet Expert: Meaford’s Off-Leash Dog Park to be Relocated in the Coming Years

The Beautiful Joe Off-Leash Dog Park, located on Grant Avenue in Meaford, shares property with the community’s wastewater treatment facility. This was always considered a temporary location for the dog park, as Municipal planning forecast that the treatment facility would need room to expand in the near future as our population grows.

With new residential developments like Loon Call and SkyDev in the works, it seems the time for expansion of the wastewater treatment facility is rapidly growing nearer. This means the off-leash dog park will need to find a new, more permanent home over the next few years.

Leash-free areas provide a safe place for dogs to get much-needed exercise, stimulation, and social enrichment. The current off-leash dog park is the only location in Meaford where pet owners can take their pooch for leash-free fun year round. Throughout the winter months, Memorial Park becomes an off-leash friendly area, and Memorial Park’s dog beach is a popular off-leash spot during summer.

As per bylaw, at all other parks, beaches, and public spaces in our Municipality dogs must be leashed at all times.

From an outsider’s point of view, a dog park may not seem like that big of a deal, however recent studies reveal their true importance for pets, people, and the community as a whole.

A 2014 study by Taryn Graham and Troy Glover from the University of Waterloo called “On the Fence: Dog Parks in the (Un)Leashing of Community and Social Capital” explores how dog parks help people build relationships and improve communities. Their findings are quite compelling:

  • At dog parks, pets allow individuals to meet others and explore their social surroundings through their pets – like an avatar. This is not so dissimilar to online gaming communities, where members share a virtual space and engage in conversations and relationship building.
  • Demographics of those visiting dog parks do not seem to matter in terms of forming relationships. Human interaction at dog parks is based on how well their dogs play together.
  • Dog parks serve as a valuable resource for getting information and referrals for local veterinarians, pet groomers, pet retailers, and more.
  • Many relationships that form in a dog park extend beyond the park itself, helping to form a social community for both dogs and their owners.
  • Dog owners are sometimes asked by local governments to serve on communities to help address issues pertaining to park stewardship and pet overpopulation.

Currently, the leading contender for a new park location is Beautiful Joe Park on Edwin Street. After all, it’s already a popular pet-themed attraction in Meaford. While it may sound like a perfect fit on paper, it is really anything but. Beautiful Joe Park has some accessibility issues as it is not a year-round park. One may argue that Memorial Park becoming a designated off-leash area in the winter is sufficient enough, but the reality is many pet owners need the comfort and safety of a completely fenced-in, controllable space.

Other possible locations for the new Beautiful Joe Off-Leash Dog Park could include David Johnson Beach, the Centreville dump site, or even McCarroll Park. Perhaps a developer could be persuaded to incorporate a dog park into the design for a new residential development, too. Relocating the dog park also presents a great opportunity to follow what other municipalities have done, such as incorporating shaded areas, play structures, and more.

Wherever the new off-leash park ends up, one thing is for sure; well-exercised and well-socialized dogs are essential for the overall health and well-being of our community’s canines, and sufficient designated outdoor space to play is where it all begins.

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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