Coronavirus: Confusion over why off-leash dog parks remain closed in Peel Region

Mississauga resident Jennifer Kirton says she is confused as to why her city’s leash-free dog parks remain closed despite the fact neighbouring City of Toronto has now opened 70 off-leash dog parks.

Kirton said she has heard some health officials on the news that it’s now safe to open recreational spaces like off-leash dog areas, skate parks and tennis courts, but has heard conflicting information from Peel Region officials.

“It leaves us wondering what is the true story. Is it safe or is it not safe?” said a perplexed Kirton, standing outside the locked gates Etobicoke Valley Park near Highway 427 and Dundas Street East with her large white Samoyed named Lambeau.

“I mean Toronto has more cases than Mississauga. It’s just very confusing.

“It’s just so frustrating to see some regions are doing things and being told it’s safe for them and literally we’re a kilometre away from the border into Toronto, and if you cross that way you can go to parks but on this side nothing is open.”

Mississauga Coun. Pat Saito explained the decision to keep dog parks closed comes from the region’s medical officer of health.

“Last Tuesday, the province announced, yes, off-leash areas can open on Tuesday but we were kind of caught unaware because they mentioned it last week but it wasn’t on the list of locations that could open along with all of the other sports things,” she said.

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“So we looked at it and we spoke to our medical officer of health Dr. (Lawrence) Low and in his words, ‘It’s too soon.’”

“We’ve seen deaths in our community. We had the first health care worker die in Canada at Brampton Civic and I don’t want to hear more of these stories. That’s why we have to put public health first.”

He said if there was a surge of cases now, the region’s hospitals would be ill-prepared.

“We can’t afford a surge. We have to contain this,” Brown said while questioning if other cities were acting too soon.

“Ottawa is jumping the gun more so than Toronto. All team sports, baseball diamonds, volleyball courts, everything is allowed right now.”

Saito said it will be at least two weeks before off-leash parks re-open saying the protocols still are not in place.

“We have agreed with Brampton and Mississauga and we’re going to follow the same timelines. I’m really surprised Toronto has moved ahead. Having said that, Toronto has more high density with people who don’t have backyards,” she said.

With the weather getting warmer, Kirton said she is tempted to drive to Toronto’s Cherry Beach off-leash park where Lambeau can swim in the lake.

“Now this weekend we’re going to have temperatures with humidity near 30 and when you have a big fluffy dog like I do, to walk them in that heat the asphalt is not safe on their paws, there’s no tree cover, so just saying you can still walk your dog is increasingly difficult,” she said.

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