Ottawa fire officials are urging dog owners to leash their pets and keep them away from the city's waterways as firefighters deal with a "substantial" number of animal rescues this winter.

Since the end of 2015, four of Ottawa Fire Services's seven ice rescue calls have been for dogs, said district fire chief Dean Taylor.

"I think that is a substantial number. And it wasn't just people being afraid that the dogs were in trouble — it was actually dogs that were in trouble," Taylor said Sunday.

The most recent dog rescue was carried out on Jan. 16 when a dog slipped through the ice on the Rideau River near Brewer Park.

The successful rescue was just the latest in the past two-and-a-half weeks, however:

  • On Dec. 31, firefighters used a boat to rescue a dog that had fallen into the Jock River near Prince of Wales Drive and Jockvale Road and was clinging to the ice.
  • On Jan. 7, crews were called to the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway near Blair Road after receiving reports that a man was trying to rescue his dog from the Ottawa River. Both the man and his pet were safely on the shore by the time firefighters arrived.
  • On Jan. 8, a woman called 911 to report that her dog had ended up in the water near Brewer Park. Firefighters were able to rescue the animal.

Taylor said this winter's weak and late-forming ice — eastern Ontario temperatures barely dipped below 0 C mark until late December — coupled with high numbers of waterfowl along the shorelines mean that, for canines, the city's rivers are both tantalizing and treacherous.

ottawa fire service district chief dean taylor

Ottawa Fire Service district chief Dean Taylor says four reports of stranded dogs on the city's waterways in less than a month is an unusually high number. (Andrew Foote/CBC Ottawa)

"The ice is not going to be good for most of this year, unless we get a real cold snap," said Taylor. "So the best policy is keep your dogs right away from the ice, completely."

Firefighters will continue to consider dog rescues a priority, said Taylor, as it's better than the alternative — having to rescue their owners, too.

"People will want to go rescue their animals. And because of that, we know we have to go and get the animals and bring them off and save them," said Taylor. "Because we don't want people going out on the ice."