Ottawa residents are using the city’s 311 system to loudly complain about dog owners and their pets.

Kitchissippi Ward has the highest complaint rate for dogs at large, with 11.5 complaints per 10,000 residents for the first six months of 2023, according to an analysis of data the city uses to track complaints. 

The ward also ranks fourth for complaints about dogs in prohibited parks, with 6.2 per 10,000; fifth for stoop-and-scoop violation complaints, with 3.5 per 10,000; and third for dogs previously running loose complaints, with 10.4 per 10,000 thousand. 

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper isn’t surprised by the numbers and how his ward ranks compared to other wards, describing Kitchissipi’s numbers as “big” for complaints about dogs at large.

“It’s an issue about which I hear a lot as the city councillor,” Leiper said. “It tends to be focused in a couple of geographies and the issue is exacerbated at the moment because some of our traditional dog-walking areas are affected by construction.”

Lemieux Island as a popular dog-walking area, but Leiper noted it has been inaccessible because of construction on the Chief William Commanda Bridge. Laroche Park’s off-leash dog park is also inaccessible because of developments in the park.

“A couple of key dog walking areas are now off-limits to dog-owners, temporarily,” Leiper said. “I’m certain that is resulting in people needing to walk their dogs in areas where, according to the bylaws, they’re not [supposed to]. … That can lead to complaints.”

While the 311 database tracks complaints per ward it does not list specific locations. However, Leiper said he believes one of the hotspots is the Tom Brown Arena, based on the complaints his office receives. At the arena, the off-leash area is not clearly delineated from the prohibited area.

Dogs off-leash creates a “significant discomfort for a large [number] of people,” according to Leiper when he described the situation in Hampton Park — which has lots of trails and people.

But for others, “discomfort” is the opposite feeling they get when dogs are running freely.

River Ward resident Jose Garcia brings his black lab puppy, Ata, to McCarthy Park almost daily. He’s never had any issues with his current dog at the park, but sees why there are a range of complaints.   

“I let her off when there’s no one around. That’s why I like to wake up early and come here because there’s nobody here, and that’s where I’ll try to do some recall training,” he said. 

Parks in Ottawa are for the public and people use the space differently. When one group begins to take over, issues can arise. 

Owl Park In River Ward is a popular spot for dog owners to allow their pooches run around — on- and off-leash. [Photo © Benjamin Guthrie/ARGON IMAGING]

“Dog owners (need to understand) people who are not comfortable with dogs and non-dog owners (need to have) an understanding of dog owners who might want to have their dog off-leash,” Garcia said. 

Transport trucker Rob Wallace takes his nine-month-old dachshund, Tucker, with him everywhere. 

When he’s home, he frequently visits Owl Park, which is in between two schools and is a popular spot for dog owners. 

He’s been told that his dog should be on a leash, to which he counters that dog owners know their pets. 

“If I thought my dog was aggressive, it would be on a leash,” Wallace said. “Everybody’s respectful of each other and knows their animal.” 

While this is true, city parks differ from private property and are subject to guidelines that can lead to complaints. River Ward, where McCarthy and Owl Park are located, is in the top five for all dog-related reports, according to an analysis of the city’s complaints data.

While Leiper does ask bylaw officers to respond to dog-related complaints, he said he tries to be understanding of dog owners, given the issue with construction. He's hoping to get dog-walking areas back in operation to solve these problems.

“We’re asking people to be patient through this particularly tough time while some of these dog-walking areas are unavailable,” Leiper said. “I’m asking dog owners to be considerate to people who may be uncomfortable around dogs, but there’s no magic bullet.”