British Columbia

Dog banned from Langley off-leash dog park for 'being a dog'

A Shetland sheepdog in Langley has been banned from the Uplands off-leash dog park after a neighbour complained about its persistent barking, and the way it ran along the fence near the road.

Cameron the Shetland sheepdog's main offence is running next to the park's fence and barking at cars

Cameron, a shetland sheepdog, has been banned from a Langley off-leash dog park for running around and barking "incessantly." (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Cameron, a Shetland sheepdog, isn't an aggressive dog.

He's not known for fighting other dogs at the dog park, or growling and biting anybody. Rather, Cameron has been banned from Langley's Uplands off-leash dog park for running along the fence and barking at passing cars.

Cameron's owner, John Levesque, received the ban from Langley City officials last week, and it's hitting the 67-year-old veteran hard.

Levesque, who struggles with PTSD, has found companionship and healthy exercise at the vast Uplands off-leash park.

Before the ban, his routine at the park started at about 7:30 each morning. He met a few of the regulars there, who would stroll around the kilometre-long trail with him, while their dogs ran around.

Layne Pennington is one of the people who enjoyed Levesque and Cameron's company each morning.

"The dogs should be able to come to the off-leash dog park and be able to be dogs," Pennington said. "So the whole community of the dog park is quite upset about it."

Layne Pennington is a friend of John Levesque's from the Uplands off-leash dog park where the two met. He wants the City of Langley to call off a park ban imposed on Levesque and his dog, Cameron. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Judith Lahay isn't part of Levesque's regular morning group, but she says she's taken her dog to the park every day for four years and counts herself among his supporters.

"He should not be barred and neither should his dog," said Lahay. 

"It's not like the dog is barking after 11 o'clock at night ... the dog is safe — he never hurt another dog," she said.

'Not kept under control'

Rick Bomhof , the city of Langley's director of engineering, parks and environment has been dealing with the issue. 

Bomhof said Levesque and Cameron were verbally banned from the smaller dog area before the new general ban came up.

"The dog was not kept under control and it was left to run up and down the fence chasing cars and barking incessantly, you know, [in the] early morning hours, and that's what caused the problem," said Bomhof.

The ban was initially for six months, but after discussions Bomhof had with Levesque, it was reduced to two months with the condition that when Levesque returns, he keeps Cameron leashed until he crosses a portion of the off-leash park.

The Uplands off-leach dog park in Langley features a huge area for dogs to run around. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Bomhof said the complaints originate from a single household and appear to involve a drawn-out dispute between Levesque and the residents.

"When I talked to John, he seemed like a reasonable person — easy to get along with, so I'm surprised we are where we are," he said.

"Every owner still needs to have their dog under control," said Bomhof. 

But the city official added neighbours have to tolerate a degree of noise from dogs.

"Obviously if you live beside a playground, live beside a fire hall where there's going to be some noise generated — and a dog park is the same, but everyone has rights and you have to try to balance those rights out," he said.

Bomhof said Levesque accepted the compromise of a reduced ban with conditions, but the feeling in the Uplands dog-walking community seems to be that any ban is unfair.

"Of course, the ban should be pulled immediately," said Pennington. "John and Cameron shouldn't be banned from this park for what they deem excessive barking, but what a normal dog owner would deem just a normal dog playing and having fun and being a dog."


Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at cbc.ca/bc.

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