In what is set to be the battle of the ages, dog owners along Toronto’s Beaches boardwalk are up in arms over an invasion that has them frightened for the safety of their four-legged family members.
A new disease-bearing tick?
Someone leaving poisoned treats?
Marauding coyotes looking for a snack?
Nothing so mundane.
Instead, pet parents are angry that the dog park at the foot of Lee Avenue has been invaded by terrors of the bipedal kind as parents throughout the area have literally unleashed their children within the wood beam and chicken wire compound.
“It’s just not fair,” cries local Peke-a-poo owner Jolene Carpenter. “They have a wooden fortress and wading pool right there in Kew Gardens, and full playgrounds at either end of the boardwalk.”
“How would they like it if we turned their sandboxes into litter boxes?” adds Henry Ratsburg, collie-enthusiast and former cat owner.
As though proving their point, the fence bordering the dog park resembles a sand-covered drive-in as strollers of all sizes, colours and designs sit parked along the fence. Meanwhile, their parental owners relax at the nearby ice cream bar and coffee shop, chatting with other parents while their children run amok beyond the gates.
“I really don’t understand the fuss,” chimes Cyndy Jacobson, mother of two. “My kids need a safe place to run around, and this is the only designated off-leash section of the beach.”
Ironically, the dog park, which is actually comprised of an open sandy section and a larger shrub-laden section, was established by the City of Toronto several years ago after many parents in the area complained about dogs littering their waterfront fun.
“It was a total mess out there,” remembers long-time Beaches resident Jackson Brink. “At best, people would just bury the dog droppings in the sand, but it doesn’t take long on a hot summer’s day to realize you’ve parked your beach towel on a fermenting pile left by a mastiff or Great Dane.”
The park’s transition from canine to kiddie has been a slow but inexorable one that started with delayed summer temperatures last year and parents’ worries about letting their children play in the frigid surf. One by one, as stressed parents discovered the relative calm of the dog park, they began to release their children into its confines.
“The first few actually showed up with both kids and dogs in tow, but they didn’t fool us,” says Carpenter. “Within minutes, you’d see them skulk out of the park with their dogs, the kids nowhere to be found.”
Several residents have demanded the City step in, if only to deal with the potential health and safety risks.
“They bite; they scratch; they’re full of germs. I just don’t feel that my babies are safe in there,” complains Ratsburg, anxiously stroking the fur of his tri-colour collies.
Nobody from the City of Toronto was willing to go on the record, but one unnamed source suggests there is little the City can do given the way current bylaws are written.
“All we can do is caution people to make sure their little ones have all their shots and don’t get trampled,” the source suggests. “Residents with children might want to do the same.”