Barking, running, and playing are activities expected to be seen at dog parks.
But a local man and his nine-year-old Shetland sheepdog, Cameron, are banned from Uplands Dog Off-Leash Park for doing just that.
Last Thursday, John Levesque was hand-delivered a letter from the City while he and Cameron were playing at the park.
“It [the letter] says myself and my dog are banned from Uplands Dog Park for six months. What happens is he [Cameron] runs along the fence. Doesn’t bother people, doesn’t bother other dogs, or kids,” explained Levesque.
The letter states,”Your dog Cameron’s excessive barking and your inability to keep it under voice command while in the park has led to this ban.”
Langley City director of engineering Rick Bomhof, confirmed a dog park visitor was given a letter under the Parks and Facilities bylaw that banned both owner and dog from using Uplands Dog Park for six months.
Bomhof said the ban is the first time it’s happened in the City that he’s aware of.
“We don’t want to restrict people,” said Bomhof.
“It’s when it’s consistent, you lose your enjoyment if the dog is not under control. There’s a certain expectation that you will manage your dogs’ activities in the park and not create a nuisance to the neighbours.”
According to Bomhof, the complaints came from a resident adjacent to the park, and City staff also observed the dog’s behaviour.
For Levesque, who moved to Langley two years ago, Uplands Dog Park has given him a sense of community.
In 1974, Levesque went overseas to the Middle East as a peacekeeper after the Yom Kippur War.
Since returning, he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder, and uses the dog park as an outlet for exercise and socialization.
“I went over as a kid at 24, and I came back like a man of 45. I’ve seen things I should not and I still see them in my mind,” explained Levesque.
My social circle and my rehab is going there [dog park] and talking with these guys, walking for an hour. It allows me to be in a safe place. When I come home I feel good, invigorated, energetic, happy. I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning.”
A group of friends that Levesque made at the dog park want to get him back in the park as soon as possible.
Dog park regular Layne Pennington called the ban “ridiculous.”
“It seems ridiculous that a dog running and barking at a dog park is banned. Yes the dog runs up the fence and chases cars and barks, but when John walks around, he doesn’t do it. It [the ban] comes across as the City trying to appease one person.”
Dave O’Brien, who has been coming to the dog park for eight years said he’s “seen it all.”
“The minimal amount of barking that happens here with the hour he’s [Cameron] here, does not fit the crime. It’s got to be hard on him [Levesque] to be sitting at home right now with no one to talk to.”
After consulting with Bomhof, Levesque’s ban was reduced to two months.
But Levesque is not satisfied with the agreement, because he said a condition of his return is that Cameron must be leashed until they reach the far west end of the dog park.
“It’s an off-leash dog park. One dog has to be leashed. He’s under twenty pounds, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. It has to be one standard for all. If it’s an off-leash dog park, it’s an off-leash dog park,” said Levesque.
Bomhof said he recalls the leash requirement was the owner’s suggestion “as a compromise and it seemed reasonable.”
“The main premise here is that every dog owner must be in control of their dog at all times so as to avoid issues like this or conflicts with other dogs. If that means a person needs to keep the dog on a leash in certain areas of the park then we expect them to do that,” explained Bomhof.
Levesque believes one neighbourhood house has been targeting him, as he and Cameron were also banned indefinitely from using the small-dog section of the park in 2017 for the same reason.
“They’ve ruined it for me and I don’t know who else. If I’m not there – who’s next?”
Levesque and his dog park friends are hoping the ban will be lifted before the two months are up.
“It shouldn’t be a ban at all. It shouldn’t of come to this. The City needed to deal with the homeowner in their own way,” added O’Brien.