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Dogs in Downtown Nelson barking up the right tree

Dogs were allowed back in the downtown core much to the delight of tourists and shoppers. —The Nelson Daily photo

Things are picking up when it comes to the bylaw amendment to allow dogs on the city’s main street.

At least, it is picking up when it comes to animal feces left on the street to find the sole of someone’s shoe, that is.

A report from the city’s bylaw department to city council on Monday night noted that “very little” feces was left on the street this summer, compared to the amount left during the years when a bylaw was in effect to disallow dogs on Baker Street.

“I know my shoes were a little cleaner this year,” said bylaw officer Fred Thomson. “It was out there but it wasn’t that bad.”

With the city’s Animal Control Bylaw amended in February 2015, the city’s finest and bylaw gave an inside look on ground level after one season of the new regime.

Nelson Police Department deputy chief inspector Paul Burkart had requested an audience with council to report on the amendment in action to allow dogs back on Baker Street and in Nelson’s downtown core.

Bylaw has been dealing directly with the dogs on Baker Street issue for a number of years, said Thomson, and this year the officers enjoyed it.

The department’s three officers had over 400 interactions with people this year over the bylaw and, for the most part, they have been good, he said.

“Overall it was a real success and … we would like to see it continue,” said Thomson of the city’s bylaw department. “And going forward we would like to see it continue.”

The city’s trio of officers did not field the grief they have had in the past when the bylaw prohibited dogs on Baker Street.

“As all people in town know, it’s a tough thing to tell somebody their dog can’t be downtown … it’s a family member and we were coming down on their family members,” he said.

Burkart said for as long as he has been an officer in Nelson the dog bylaw had been in place. He felt the bylaw was predicated to discourage “transients” who brought their dogs downtown.

At the outset of the change in spring, Thomson said the city department officers were not sure how the change would transpire. Some of those concerns, when looking at the year overall, turned out for the positive, he said.

“Tourists and a lot of people have liked it and said ‘Oh, we are glad Nelson changed the bylaw,’” said Thomson.

“And you didn’t see a bunch of bags pulled out all over and littering the streets, The feces around on the street, people have walked into it in the past, and I’m sure they have walked into again this year,” Thomson noted.

“But we think that is even down and that is surprising because there certainly does seem to be more dogs downtown.”

He attributed the drop to the numerous bag dispensers the city installed in the downtown region. Thomson said there certainly could be more put into place.

In all, bylaw officers wrote six tickets for the whole year. Most of the time, when they came across someone, they educated them on what the bylaw was, the history of it, and 90 per cent of the people were really receptive to it, he said.

The only problem was people tying their dogs up at posts, especially at the outdoor restaurant patios, said Thomson.

“People would be out there with their dogs and having lunch but you still can’t tie your dogs up there,” he said.

Officers had to interrupt them in their lunch but most people were understanding of the bylaw parameters.

Mayor Deb Kozak said she remembered when the issue of changing the bylaw first came to council and the heated debate for and against change that ensued. To see the bylaw now in effect and working successfully was encouraging, she said.

“I’m so pleased that this has moved forward,” she said. “Dogs should be allowed downtown but we should have some rules in place.”

Coun. Michael Dailly agreed.

“We know it’s not always so easy to be out there in the community and be the bad guy looking for things that (are wrong). It’s a tough job,” he said.

The report to council stated that “bylaw enforcement officers will provide a period of leniency and education during the summer of 2015 and report to council on the outcome of the bylaw amendment in the fall of 2015.”

The information will be pertinent to the city’s full review of the Animal Control Bylaw which will be underway in the near future.