By ROBERT STURREY
A couple of weeks ago I was hiking in Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park when I was attacked from behind by an off-leash dog.
The dog bit me in the calf and ran back to its dog walker. The wound wasn’t serious, and after giving the dog walker a suitable lecture I carried on with my hike.
But I began to feel uneasy. What if my wound had been serious? What if this unleashed dog attacked someone else? What if the victim was a child who was seriously injured and traumatized for life?
I knew I had to speak up, so I placed a warning on the Salt Spring Exchange with details of the attack. I received emails of support but also tales of dog attacks on Salt Spring, one requiring hospitalization, stitches and rabies injections.
I have been hiking Salt Spring’s beautiful trails for years and I have encountered many hikers and their dogs. Most dogs are friendly and well behaved but not all. I have been barked at, growled at, jumped on by overly friendly dogs while the owners shout at me, “Don’t worry, my dog is friendly and won’t hurt you.”
I am dog friendly and not afraid of dogs, but some people are. A poorly trained dog that rushes towards another hiker can be a frightening experience for those people who are afraid.
You who are dog owners know your dog. Do they walk alongside you unleashed, or do they rush down the trail ahead of you looking for an exciting encounter? Perhaps a deer to chase or a hiker to bark at.
The rules in a provincial park are clear. All dogs must be leashed. Personally, if a dog is well trained and stays with its owner I don’t think it needs to be leashed. But the rules are there to protect the public so everyone can feel safe. Unfortunately, we do not have strict CRD enforcement, and no one here seems to be enforcing the rules. My question to the CRD is this: Where are you?
If walkers and hikers could be brave enough and suggest to dog owners that their poorly behaved dog needs to be on a leash, we would all benefit. Most of us don’t like to be told we are breaking the rules, and some owners may react defensively. I don’t see any alternative.
Don’t we all deserve to enjoy ourselves in this beautiful nature without fear and harassment? If all of us, dog owners and non-dog owners alike, could take responsibility to ensure our environment is safe and friendly, then perhaps we can avoid dog aggression that leads to serious consequences.
If not, then incidents like this will happen again — sooner or later.