Running dogs alongside vehicles is now banned throughout the City of Yellowknife, a move which targets the sandpits at the city’s western edge.

The sandpits are a recognized off-leash dog area, but a number of owners choose to exercise their dogs from a car, truck or ATV while driving across the terrain.

That practice was outlawed by city councillors on Monday evening. A bylaw amendment approved by council reads: “No person shall exercise, walk, or run, a dog while operating a motorized vehicle, including but not limited to a motor vehicle as defined in the Motor Vehicles Act of the Northwest Territories.”

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The bylaw applies throughout city limits. However, anyone exercising a dog from their vehicle on a public road would already be violating bylaws related to dogs at large and unreasonably slow driving. In practice, Monday’s amendment specifically targets off-road driving with dogs at the sandpits.

Yellowknife’s sandpits are home to a wide range of activities. The city’s SPCA warns owners walking with dogs in the area to “be careful of snowmobilers, dirt bikes, off-road cars and trucks, off-leash dogs, and horseback riders.”

Councillor Adrian Bell, supporting the change, said: “I’ve known enough people who have killed their own dogs accidentally while driving them, mostly at the sandpits, and it’s not pleasant.

“This is a practice that I think we should try to discourage.”

‘A feel-good bylaw’

Two of the eight councillors – Niels Konge and Steve Payne – opposed the move.

“We heard from bylaw that this would be a difficult bylaw to enforce. We heard from members of the public that for mobility reasons they felt the need, that was the only way that they could exercise their animals,” said Konge.

“And frankly, you know, putting more bylaws on the books? I think we have a slew of other bylaws that I would rather have bylaw officers working on.

“Ultimately, when you have pets, they are the responsibility of the owners. As an owner, you need to make sure that your pet is safe and under control. It doesn’t matter how many bylaws we make. I think it’s a feel-good bylaw but we should be concentrating on a whole bunch of other things.”

In November 2016, Yellowknife resident Trudy Hause lobbied councillors to take action after seeing her nine-year-old dog, Elwood, run over at the sandpits by another owner running a dog alongside their truck.

At the time, veterinarian Dr Tom Pisz told the CBC a number of dogs are similarly struck, and either injured or killed, at the sandpits each year.

In the same article, municipal enforcement boss Doug Gillard warned: “Even if there was a bylaw in place, we can’t be out there all the time.”

Anyone truly wedded to the concept of exercising animals from their vehicle could, theoretically, turn to cats, which traditionally brings mixed results.

Meanwhile, the City is taking steps to turn land behind Yellowknife’s fieldhouse into a new off-leash dog area. It will be the fifth official off-leash area available to residents, alongside the sandpits, Tin Can Hill, Fiddler’s Lake Road, and a dog park behind the Community Arena.