Don't want to get fined in Hamilton? Keep your dog close and your friends at a distance

Dog owners can be fined $100 for letting their pooch run free, while people walking with friends or neighbours can be ticked $500, according to Ken Leendertse, director of licensing and bylaw services for the city.

Failing to physically distance from friends or neighbours could cost you $500

Hamilton Animal Services staff have been kept busy making sure dog owners have their pets on a leash during the pandemic. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Dog parks may be locked down, but that doesn't mean you can let your pet run wild.

And yes, you can be ticketed for failing to stay two metres away from your friend.

Hamilton's director of licensing and bylaw services, Ken Leendertse answered those and other common questions about the rules around COVID-19 during a virtual town hall Wednesday evening.

Despite efforts to educate people about the new regulations put in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Leendertse said more than 100 Hamiltonians have been written up so far.

Seven of those fines went to people who ignored the caution tape and signage barring them from dog parks.

But a separate problem is people who see any green space as a de facto playground for their pooch.

"Since the dog parks are closed people seem to think that they can go to a school ground or a public park or we've even had them on golf courses, [and] let their dog run free," explained the director.

However, Leendertse said under the Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw the only places a dog can be off-leash are in someone's backyard or private property such as a farm.

"If you are anywhere in the City of Hamilton and you have a dog it has to be on a leash. Otherwise it is an offence."

Failing to abide by the bylaw could earn you a $100 fine — a high price to pay for walking your dog.

The city's animal services team investigates more than 100 dog bites a year, Leendertse noted. He added the goal of the COVID-19 crackdown is to keep everyone safe.

"Think about it, everybody's in our parks right now We have grandparents walking their kids, moms and dads … and a dog comes running up to them. They don't know if it's a safe dog," he said. "Especially right now the risk is so high for someone to get bit."

A handmade sign posted near the Chedoke Civic Golf Club warns passersby they could face fines for going on the course. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Going for a walk or stopping to chat with the person next door could end with a ticket right now even if you don't have a dog.

Hamilton's physical distancing bylaw dictates people must stay at least two metres away from someone who doesn't live in the same building or home as them, which means getting too close with neighbours or friends could be costly.

Leendertse said his team spent a lot of time trying to raise awareness around the new rule, but at this point they've moved to enforcement.

"Unfortunately not everyone is compliant. We have people that don't want to listen to the bylaw," he said.

At $500 a pop it's a "pretty heavy duty fine," Leendertse added, pointing out two people have had to pay up so far.

The solution? "It's easy," he said. "Walk with your friends, walk in the park, but keep your distance."


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