Downtown dog ban unfair to street kids, outreach group says

Downtown dog ban unfair to street kids, outreach group says
The Gazette
Published: Thursday, June 07, 2007

Montreal is unfairly targeting young street kids by banning dogs in two downtown parks, says an organization that helps homeless youth, many of whom keep dogs for companionship, security, and warmth in the winter.

But the Ville-Marie borough says the ban isn’t specifically aimed at dogs owned by young punks it also targets downtown residents who let their dogs loose in the two parks: Viger and Emilie-Gamelin.

As of Wednesday, those caught walking their dogs risk fines of $100 to $1,000.

"Young people have a right to exist downtown, too," said Caroline Dufour, director of front-line services at Dans La Rue, an organization that helps street kids. "And they don’t know where else to go.

"If they set up in front of businesses on streets like Ste. Catherine, the merchants won’t be happy. They’re better off letting them stay in the parks."

The borough "is trying to get these young people to go elsewhere, the problem is where?" She said the fear is the city will ban dogs in other downtown parks and squares, as well.

"It’ll end up being a game of musical chairs."

Last fall, groups that work with the homeless were angered by the Ville Marie borough’s decision to close 15 downtown public squares to anyone between midnight and 6 a.m.

Parks were already off limits between those hours.

Ville-Marie borough spokesperson Jacques-Alain Lavallee defended the ban.

"We’re not targeting homeless people," he said.

"We’re responding because a lot of citizens and merchants who said they felt unsafe" in the two parks because of the large number of dogs, with many owners not abiding by a bylaw that requires dogs in parks to be leashed.

Some of those dogs belong to people who live in the area, including the Gay Village, Old Montreal and St. Denis St., he said.

"The number of dogs were steadily increasing and we wanted to act."

The borough said it has no plans to extend the ban, Lavallee said.

If homeless youth end up lounging in front of businesses with their dogs, "we’ll just have to monitor the situation and see what else can be done," Lavallee said.

"Do they have a permit for each of their dogs this will have to be verified by our inspectors or by the police."

Dog owners in Montreal are required to buy dog tags for their pets; those who don’t risk fines of up to $1,000.

Lavallee said the borough didn’t have to pass a new bylaw because a 1999 city bylaw gives it the power to ban dogs in parks.

Dufour, of Dans La Rue, said dogs are important to many street kids

"These are people who are cut off from their families, and they form emotional attachments with their dogs," she said.

Practically, the dogs serve as protection because there is a lot of violence out there; in the winter, they provide warmth, Dufour added.


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