Why dog restrictions in a small community may be the tipping point for greater change
You may have yet to hear about the new leash laws in Tofino, a small resort town on the west coast of Canada.
In the past, Tofino was one of the last places in North America where dogs and people could enjoy freedom on spectacular beaches in peace and harmony. Here is a photo of the area.
However, the Tofino Council recently approved a bylaw that requires dogs to be leashed in all public spaces, including the beaches. While the Council made this decision with the best intentions, there's much more to consider.
There has been growing evidence that off-leash time is vital for our dogs' physical and mental health, but the decision to prohibit off-leash dogs impacts the community more deeply.
Tofino is unique as a community where people from around the world visit to enjoy the unspoiled wilderness, amazing beaches, and relaxed and tolerant atmosphere — of which happy and freed dogs are part.
Although minor at first glance, the new community bylaw reflects a continuous erosion of freedoms for dog lovers and our society. Way too often, a few loud voices spoil it for everyone.
That's why I've written a letter to the Council in Tofino, expressing these thoughts and asking them to reconsider the new leash laws.
To make them listen, we need to unite as a community.
And while some of you may not be directly affected by the situation in Tofino, you may face similar problems in your own community. I hope that my letter will inspire you to write to your city council to bring about change for your dogs too.
40% of families in North America live with dogs. Until now, we have broadly accepted the gradual erosion of freedom for our dogs, but it is time to stand up.
People who live with dogs are healthier and happier. Dogs with plenty of off-leash time live longer and are much more socially adjusted, which prevents aggression, fearfulness, and other problems.
By signing this petition, we can show the Tofino Council that our dog community is open to discussing better solutions.
Be sure to share the petition with as many people as possible. The more support we gather, the more powerful our message becomes.
Let's join forces to support our dogs and our community. Let's make a difference together!
Dear Honourable Council Members of Tofino,
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to express my deep concern over the recent changes made regarding the Tofino community's dog leash bylaws, which now require all dogs to be leashed in all public areas, including our beautiful and wild beaches.
Tofino has long been a haven for humans and dogs alike, providing a refuge from our busy lives and giving us a sense of freedom in an otherwise complex world. Residents and visitors come here to enjoy the ocean and wilderness and spend time with our canine companions. There is a general understanding that happy and free dogs are very much part of the character of Tofino and are often featured in hotel brochures and ads.
As a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience, I am intimately aware of the importance of dogs in people's lives and how crucial off-leash time is for their physical and emotional well-being.
I have witnessed the stark contrast in dog behaviour in different locations worldwide. For example, in Vancouver, where leashing has become increasingly mandatory and dogs are generally disallowed on beaches, we have seen a rise in canine aggression and conflicts. In contrast, in Prague, where dogs are given off-leash freedom almost anywhere, and dog guardians are trusted to make responsible decisions, you rarely see any problems because most dogs are socially well-adjusted. The difference is striking.
The issue at hand in Tofino does not only concern dog owners but the community at large. With approximately 40% of Canadian households owning dogs, dog lovers represent a significant demographic of taxpayers and voters, and it seems only fair that our views are considered when drafting pet-related bylaws.
Having spent 27 years behind the Iron Curtain, I have also developed a deep appreciation for the importance of individual freedom, a value that most Canadians hold dear.
This is why it deeply saddens me to observe the gradual erosion of our liberties and to drift toward unnecessary restrictions and overregulation. History has shown that too much control often leads to more problems and that everyone wins when people have the freedom to create a community built on trust and respect.
Although dog leash bylaws may seem minor, they indicate an overarching pattern of increasing restrictions that threaten our cherished liberties and democracy. Good municipal government should be about trusting people and inspiring them to build a vibrant and thriving community of support and respect.
There are, undoubtedly, dogs that may be dangerous, as some people pose threats to public safety. However, it would be unfair and unwise to impose restrictions on the entire community because of the actions of a few. Instead, we should focus on dealing with those who endanger the safety of others, be they dogs or humans, without infringing upon the rights of the responsible majority.
Moreover, we must not succumb to the impression that the preferences of a vocal minority are the wishes of most people. I have also observed a rise in cultural or personal disliking of dogs in recent years. I love Canada for its multicultural society that respects and accommodates diverse views and customs. However, we should not do so at the expense of the freedoms of a substantial proportion of its citizens.
Dogs undoubtedly offer endless benefits to our health and well-being. They are proven allies in combating mental disease, depression, loneliness, and suicide and help us live longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Society must reassess our approach to regulations and acknowledge our dogs as valued family members. This is why I have decided to approach you, the Council of Tofino, and propose a comprehensive review of the matter, factoring in scientific evidence, community views, and the long-term importance of preserving our freedoms.
Dog lovers in Tofino are ready and willing to engage in constructive discussions and appreciate your understanding and consideration of our views. We are confident that we can find a balanced solution that serves the best interests of all Tofino residents and visitors — both two-legged and four.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM