Pea gravel causing problems for pooches, owners at Greenwood dog park

An east Toronto city councillor wants the city to ditch its new, cheaper way of maintaining dog parks — a method that some owners complain is aggravating their poochs' paws.

Coun. Paula Fletcher says pea gravel in off-leash areas hard on dogs and owners

Farah Lalani, a dog walker at Greenwood Park, says pea gravel is not the best surface choice for dog parks. (John Lesavage/CBC)

An east Toronto city councillor wants the city to ditch its new, cheaper way of maintaining dog parks — a method that some owners complain is aggravating their pooches' paws.

The city has been lining the parks with pea gravel, instead of more traditional grass or wood chips, in order to improve drainage.

But Coun. Paula Fletcher (Ward 14 Toronto-Danforth) is calling for a review to determine a healthier, safer surface in the city's 68 off-leash parks.

Some dog owners agree.

"A lot of dogs avoid going on the gravel because it does impinge on their paws," says Farah Lalani, a dog walker at the off-leash area in Greenwood Park, and owner of Popular Paws.

She brings four dogs to the park almost every day.  She prefers wood chips or grass for the canines, but both come with maintenance costs that the city avoid with gravel.

Dogs at Greenwood Park enjoying the off-leash area - but not the pea gravel surface. (John Lesavage/CBC)

"It's probably cheaper for the city but at the end of the day, it's the owners and the dogs that suffer," said Lalani.

Andrew Wreakes says pea gravel is the reason he won't take his dog to Greenwood dog park anymore.

"Once they put the pea gravel in and I got there with my dog, she is a runner and ...she was at best going at half-speed ... not very sure-footed on the surface," he told CBC Toronto. "To be quite honest, I'm in my late 50s, I would get on it and I felt like it was giving way."

The owner of this dog, Andrew Wreakes, says pea gravel is the reason why he won't take his border collie to Greenwood dog park anymore. (Andrew Wreakes )

Despite the complaints, Fletcher says pea gravel  has become the standard ground cover in Toronto for new dog parks. 

"I do think that should be reviewed.  It doesn't seem to work very well.  It's not great for dogs to run or roll around in.  It isn't stable for dogs to get a good footing and to get going,"  Fletcher told CBC Toronto.

She says the gravel is also dangerous for people with disabilities.

"One of my constituents is blind, she fell over and broke her cane because it's a very unstable walking surface," she said.

City Coun. Paula Fletcher wants staff to review the surfaces available for the city's off-leash areas, after complaints from some constituents. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

While Fletcher thinks replacing large areas of gravel with cedar wood chips could cost as much as $50,000 a year, she wants to see the pea gravel replaced.

Katie Reid is a professionally-certified dog trainer who says that pea gravel is a health and safety issue for dogs. 

"It's really hard to move on. Dogs find it extremely really difficult to run on. Dogs that are runners and ball chasers don't run on the also cuts paws," she said.

"When dogs go into that park they'll go up on the paved pathway because they don't even want to stand on the pea gravel. Some dogs look at the owners and try to leave."


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