Residents raise several concerns with Dogs on the Beach Pilot Test


In Saugeen Shores, ‘dogs on the beach’ in the summer months, has long been an issue for many years for Councils.

In June of this year (2023), Saugeen Shores Town Council approved a pilot test for  expanded ‘dog-friendly zones’ in Port Elgin and Southampton.

In Port Elgin, the zone approved was from 538 Izzard to Concession 6/Bruce Road 25 and it allowed dogs to only be on the beach before 9:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. during the summer months.

In Southampton however, no time restrictions were placed on the area from High Street to the mouth of the Saugeen River, but conditions do require that dogs be kept on leash and under control when not in the water, and that owners ‘poop scoop’.

Unfortunately, there are always those dog owners who ignore the requirements and ruin it for those who do.

On Monday, September 25th, citizens Aidan Tracey and Roy Roedger, presented a delegation to Council expressing their concerns that “… the pilot test has not been a success” and that it has, in fact, resulted in numerous costs to the municipality, both monetary and otherwise.

The presentation included many photos and videos of the recalcitrant owners and their dogs.

Not only was the evidence in that many dogs are off-leash but, when unleashed, have been ‘visiting’ people’s yards and decks.

Also unfortunate, is that some dogs are not friendly and there have been instances of unsettling incidents, particularly, involving children.  The presentation cited two incidents, one where a child was bitten near Gerry’s Fast Food in Southampton and another where a mother and small child were cornered by an unleashed dog with a resident have to scare the dog by using a kayak paddle.

In addition to the safety issue, the presentation sets out several other areas of concern including financial costs incurred when police or fire services have to respond to issues, health concerns related to fecal flow into the lake and risks to wildlife.

Southampton dog-friendly zone

In the end, the presentation summary says that, “The summer 2023 Dog Zone “pilot test” in Southampton has created significant problems and potential risks. “More enforcement is not the answer,” say the presenters, “Dogs should not be on beaches during summer months.”

To read the entire presentation complete with photos, CLICK HERE.

“Clearly, there are those who are not abiding by the rules,” said Vice-deputy Mayor, Mike Myatt.  “It’s very unfortunate and this is an illustration of how some people are misusing our pilot project.”  He also requested that Council be made aware of the number of violations that have issued.  Mark Paoli, Director of Community Services, said that a full report on the Pilot project would be come to Council in October.

“I think we’ve done some really good stuff here,” added Myatt, “but it’s certainly not perfect. Let’s see what the report says and then rehash it.”

Councilor Bud Halpin asked what people are supposed to do when the By-Law officer is not available.   Mayor Luke Charbonneau said that they should call the police.  “The police can enforce the By-laws and should be called.”

Councilor John Divinski referred to his conversation with Police Chief Kevin Zettel saying that there have been 1644 foot patrols to date.  “It’s a 45% increase from last year so I have to assume the beach coverage was 45% as well.  They had 75 dedicated beach patrols through the Problem Oriented Policing Initiative that focus on By-law violations including under the Liquor Control Act, the Animal Control Act and the Parks and Beaches By-law.  There was an increase where an officer was taken away from ordinary foot patrol to focus on beach issues.  Also, according to the Chief, there were 153 By-law events with 12 charges under the Dog Owner Liability Act. For some it was an education moment and not everyone got charged.”

He therefore encouraged residents to call the police.  “The police have gone out of their way to make sure they have people that are doing this. Use the service.  That’s what they’re there for and they will do their best.  I think they made a good effort this summer.”

Councillor Dave Myette pointed out that some residents are encouraged by dogs who have kept the geese ‘at bay’.  “We also live in a semi-rural area and some of the ‘scat’ photos in the presentation could be from wildlife such as coyotes, fox or raccoons. To the untrained eye, it is very similar.”

Myette also asked the presenters what they were requesting. “Are you asking that we cancel dogs on the beach? That we modify that section to be similar to Port Elgin?”

Aidan Tracey said that he would like to see the issue go back to its former ‘no dogs on the beach from May to October.

Deputy Mayor Diane Huber pointed out that visuals are always good in a presentation as Council does not always get to see outside issues on a daily basis. “I hope that the staff report coming to Council will include some statistical information based on police observations and involvement along with information from the By-law officer. I think public comments should also be part of that report.  I am concerned about the health of the beach and public enjoyment but there’s also the public enjoyment that people get from their pets. I hope the report is fulsome and includes many elements that have been discussed.”