Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
A woman walks her dog off leash Monday on property behind Thunder Bay's Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital.
Dog owners who continue to use land behind the Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital as an impromptu off-leash dog park could wind up in court.
If convicted, they could face a fine as high as $5,000.
Ron Bourret, the city’s manager of bylaw enforcement, on Monday said his department intends to step up patrols in response to complaints about dogs running loose.
Regardless of who owns the property that’s against the rules, Bourret said.
“People have had a misconception that because before it was provincial property and the province wasn’t saying anything to them that they can run their dogs back there off-leash,” Bourret said.
A quick check of the legalities of the situation showed the dog owners are in the wrong.
“When you and I open our door and our dog runs out, the minute it leaves our property, whether it runs on federal property or it runs one provincial property or municipal property, it is a dog running at large,” Bourret said.
He added his officers have been told at times they have no jurisdiction.
“It’s the old-fashioned term of head for Mexico, get across the border type of thing and you’re safe. It does not exist ... We have the right to enforce dogs running at large back there.”
It’s a matter of public safety, Bourret said.
On at least one occasion a dog on a leash was viciously attacked by a dog not on a leash. There was also a case of a man being mauled by an off-leash dog, which led to charges being laid.
Bourret said his bylaw enforcement officers have embarked on an education campaign to let the public know they’re not allowed to run their dogs off leash in the park, encouraging them to use the city’s official off-leash parks found throughout Thunder Bay.
The message still doesn’t appear to be getting through.
A lunchtime check showed several dog owners walking their pets without leashes.
One woman, who did not give her name, said she was not breaking the law.
“I have to run my dog every day,” she said, miffed that media was there.
Bourret said with the education program coming to an end, it won’t be media the public should be worried about.
“We are now going into more rigorous enforcement now. Rather than warnings, I directed the staff last week to start issuing tickets.”
A first offence will net someone a ticket that will cost between $150 and $200. A second offence will lead to a court appearance and a possbile fine of up to $5,000.