New rules for dogs in York Regional Forest begin in May

If you’re among the many people who enjoy taking your pooch for a walk in York Regional Forest, you’ll want to pay attention to new rules that come into effect on May 1.

All dogs must be on leash at all times unless in off-leash trails in the Davis Tract in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville and the Bendor and Graves tract in the Town of East Gwillimbury. York Region will monitor the popularity of off-leash dog walking at those tracts and designate an additional off-leash tract if needed.

The region decided to review rules around dog walking in the forest while developing a management plan for the forest. According to a 2017 forest use survey, 55 per cent of respondents supported having dogs on-leash unless in a designated off-leash area, while many others valued the opportunity to walk their dogs off-leash in the forest.

In 2020, the region launched a review of relevant provincial legislation, local bylaws and risks, identification of best practices and a series of public consultations. Among other things, it determined off-leash dogs pose a greater risk to people using the forest, other dogs and the ecological integrity of the forest compared to on-leash dogs. It noted an increase in confrontations between off-leash dogs resulting in serious injuries and several dog fatalities over the past few years.

The first three months of implementation will focus on education and awareness but even during the transition phase, tickets could be issued to address serious incidents, failure to correct behaviour and/or repeated non-compliance, according to a Report of the Commissioner of Environmental Service.

The cost of implementing the new rule is pegged at $85,000, which encompasses new signs, creating educational material and fee-for-service provided by local municipal bylaw staff, and is included in the approved 2022 operating and capital budgets.

Ongoing annual operating costs are estimated at $65,000, which includes $60,000 for enhanced local municipal enforcement and $5,000 for communications. Learn more at york.ca/dogsurvey.

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