• Carmen Marie Fabio

Hudson open to citizen suggestions on future of dogs at Sandy Beach


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

It was standing room only in Hudson’s Halcro Cottage as residents met with council Friday, July 13 to discuss the contentious temporary ban of all dogs at Sandy Beach following news that a resident was bitten on the forearm July 11.

Over 60 people were in attendance at the special council meeting held at Hudson’s Halcro Cottage Friday, July 13 to discuss the issue of off-leash dogs at Sandy Beach in light of a July 11 incident in which a resident was bitten while he walked along the shoreline.

“It’s for an unfortunate event that we’re forced into action,” Mayor Jamie Nicholls told the standing-room crowd in the conference room. “Following a discussion with Public Security Chief Philippe Baron the day after, we convened agreeing we needed to get the beach under control for the safety and security of all Hudsonites.

Bite from dog on extended leash

As reported online at yourlocaljournal.ca, resident Greg Baumeister received four puncture wounds in his left forearm as he walked in the water following a bike ride. Though the dog that reportedly bit him was on a leash, it was roughly 10-feet in length and the owner, a woman from Île-Perrot, was unable to pull the dog back in time. Baumeister sought medical treatment and was told because the punctures were deep, a seven day course of antibiotics was warranted to prevent possible infection.

Baumeister, who said he’s worked for over a decade training avalanche rescue dogs, described the biter as a pit bull. Sûreté du Québec (SQ) spokesperson Sgt. Ingrid Asselin confirmed the event had taken place but declined to specify the breed, other than saying it was a medium to large dog.

Ban until details decided

“This amendment to the (pet) by-law is simply a notice of motion,” Nicholls said. “All your ideas about how to modify this are welcome, particularly in writing.” Nicholls said council is exploring the idea of time restrictions for dog-walking on the beach along with the notion of licenses issued for Hudson dogs.

“Nothing is set in stone but we will be imposing a ban until those details are worked out and everyone can benefit.” Nicholls said he hopes to have a solution by the next session of council in early August but won’t be bound to that.

History

Sandy Beach has long had a reputation as a dog-friendly place, particularly after the publication in May, 2018 of an article in le Journal de Montréal that described it as, “… the secret beach 40 minutes from Montreal where you can bring your dog this summer.”

Nicholls said the day after the bite incident, Baron visited the beach and counted 13 dogs, eight which were off leash. “The precedent was 32 dogs,” he said. “We have to get the situation under control.”

Nicholls said the increased popularity, combined with the fact that Hudson Community Patrol’s budget was slashed by 52 per cent in 2015, made the task of issuing fines to owners of off-leash dogs increasingly difficult. The motion to hire two additional community patrollers – making eight in total – was also proposed at the July 13 meeting to help in tasks that include crowd and parking management at popular attractions like Finnegan’s Flea Market and the Hudson/Oka Ferry and the current watering ban. “We need people to help enforce our by-laws.”

Feedback

Resident Joanne Dorcas questioned if documented statistics had been kept on the number of dog attacks, given the severity of council’s reaction.

“One too many,” replied District 6 Councillor Daren Legault, to the vocal protest of some in attendance, saying the retort ‘wasn’t fair’ and leading Mayor Nicholls to call order to the meeting.

Further to the biting incident is the reported amount of dog excrement left on the site. “When Mr. Baron did his check, he couldn’t believe the amount that was there,” said Nicholls.

Divided vote

Council voted 3 – 2 in favour of temporarily banning all dogs from Sandy Beach until a viable solution could be reached with District 1 Councillor Helen Kurgansky and District 3 Councillor Chloe Hutchison voting against the motion. Hutchison also voted against the motion to hire two additional staff members for the Community Patrol.

“I didn’t feel that a full ban was necessary,” Hutchison told The Journal. “The problem is overcrowding and if we were to just restrict the time (dog-owners could attend) that would have cut back on any danger or security issues and would not have generated the requirement to hire two more staffers.” She also expressed regret for people who travel from out of town with their pets who can no longer access the beach.

Citizen input sought

“If we have a schedule for when dogs are allowed to go there, it should be able to work,” said District 6 Councillor Barbara Robinson who will be Interim Mayor as Nicholls begins his paternity leave.

Nicholls said all residents are invited to write down their comments and suggestions on the Sandy Beach dog issue. “Bring them to town hall and deposit them with Bridget Bédard and they will get to council.”

The town’s website indicates dogs are still permitted – on-leash – at Jack Layton Park and on Hudson’s myriad walking trails. There is also an off-leash dog park on Main Road across from Thompson Park.

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