New Westminster pet owners urged to keep their dogs on leashes

New Westminster Animal Services is urging dog owners to keep their pets on a leash – for a couple of reasons.

In an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the City of New Westminster has closed many facilities and amenities, including local dog parks. In response to the crisis, the city hasreassigned staff who aren’t working on essential services to be on-call to work on other priorities related to this crisis.

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 “Due to limited staffing at this time, we are currently responding to urgent animal welfare matters and public safety concerns such as aggressive dogs, failing to provide care/shelter to pets, dogs at large, and dog bites,” said Aaron Hilgerdenaar, superintendent of street use enforcement, parking and animal services. “We would like to encourage the public to make sure that their dogs are leashed at all times while in public; not only is it the law, it shows respect to other people who may not want to be approached at this time.”

Local dog parks have been closed to the public since mid-March, along with other public spaces where people gather.

“Although we understand that some people are having challenges exercising their dogs with off-leash park closures; allowing dogs to be off leash creates safety issues and is not courteous of other users of public spaces,” Hilgerdenaar said. “We are currently working with parks on an education and signage campaign, specifically about off-leash dogs in light of COVID-19 with dog park closures."

 The city opened its new animal shelter at 420 Boyne St. in Queensborough in November 2019. The facility has spate spaces for dogs, cats and other small animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs.

“In regards to our in-house operation, we are doing everything we can to prepare for the possibility of multiple pets being cared for in our shelter,” Hilgerdenaar said in an email to the Record. “One thing that we definitely have on our side now is the space and flexibility of rooms in the new facility. We have infection control protocols in place for staff and appropriate personal protective equipment on site for our Animal Services team. It should be noted that we have not seen any increase in the amount of abandoned animals or requests to surrender animals in New Westminster.”

More information about the New Westminster Animal Shelter and animals that may be available for adoption, go to the Services section on the city’s website, www.newwestcity.ca.

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