Allison Millar isn't sure she'll be coming back to visit Whistler any time soon after her experience here this summer.
During her five-day holiday here she was amazed by the sheer number of dogs roaming around town without leashes — one peed on her new backpack in village, another pooped right beside her as she was relaxing in the park after a bike ride, and still another, a big German Shepherd, approached her nine-year-old son in the village and would not leave him alone.
To make matters worse, when she called the bylaw department to complain she was met with little to no help and a trite explanation about how this is the way things are done in Whistler.
"Why wouldn't I think twice about coming back to your community?" she said this week from Kelowna. "I dumped a whole bunch of money in your community but if they want to have a lackadaisical attitude like that toward tourists, I won't be the only one who would rethink coming back, as much as I want to."
She has written to council urging for a crack down on the dog issues, and to do some better in-house training to teach municipal staff how to deal with complaints from the public.
"Have a presence," she urged. "Roam throughout the village. Hand out warnings. Hand out fines. Really, that's what it boils down to."
Whistler knows there's a problem; however, when Millar's letter came up for consideration at Tuesday's council meeting, only Councillor Andrée Janyk spoke up about her concerns. After she spoke out, the letter was referred to staff.
Earlier this week Janyk, who is the council representative on the Recreation and Leisure Advisory Committee (RLAC), said the issue of off-leash dogs came up at the committee level several months ago; Millar's letter is not the first.
"We decided to move forward with more of an education plan," explained Janyk, of what came out of that discussion.
"In light of this letter I need to ask at the next RLAC where we are with that."
Whistler needs to be vigilant, she added."If we set these bylaws, we set them for a reason, and therefore we need to be vigilant and remind people. The question now is: how do we remind them? Do we remind them through better signage or do we remind them through bylaws?"
Janyk pointed to the new signs that have gone in at Cheakamus Crossing along the Riverside trails, prompted in part by another letter to council calling on the trails to be hiking only because of the conflicts there with other users, primarily bikers.
Janyk said the signs, reminding people to be kind and share the trail, are great.
"(I think) it really changed the atmosphere of those trails," she said.
In the past Whistler has used "kindness," she said, to enforce the rules around dogs. Janyk mused: "And maybe that's not working."
Millar is less cautious in her approach: "Don't be afraid to hand out fines. If you hit people in the pocketbook, they're going to start to comply."
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