Dogs aren’t allowed on school fields, what about sidelines?

Soccer coach wants them further away from sports activities

Shelley Linton

You can’t bring your dog on to Maple Ridge sports fields or playgrounds, according to the district’s new Animal Control and Licensing Bylaw, passed  a year ago.

However, they’re welcome anywhere else, at playgrounds and on the sidelines, pretty much anywhere but the playing surfaces.

Still, Maple Ridge resident and soccer coach Darryl Evans says the bylaw is missing something when it comes to sports activities and our canine friends and questions if dogs even should be on the sidelines of sports fields.

“Some dogs, they may be calm, but when you have 72 kids running around, are they apt to bite? Are they apt to react?”

He’s worried that a dog on a sideline could just get too excited with kids running around on the playing surface while other kids horse around on the sidelines nearby.

“How close is too close?”

What do they define as too close to the playing field?

He learned about that firsthand late last month when his eight-year-old daughter was bit in the face by a dog owned by the parent of a teammate. The incident didn’t happen on the sports field, but in the area between the pitches.

She’s doing OK, but will have a scar and next year may have to get plastic surgery.

“It happened so quick,” he said. “It could be worse next time.”

Evans has now asked parents to keep their four-legged friends completely away from the fields and sidelines and junior athletes. Walking their pets at a distance is OK, but Evans just doesn’t want dogs and soccer players to mix during a game or practice.

“Just don’t bring your dogs on to the fields, just don’t. I don’t need the liability.”

Evans coaches the girls U-9 Panthers, and said that a league or a coach could be liable for an incident that happens during a game.

“From the minute they [players] get here to the minute they leave, they are my responsibility.”

Some schools in the U.S. have even banned dogs completely from school grounds. In that country, there are 4.5 million dog bites a year, he says. Meanwhile, many teachers take their dogs to school all day.

Evans said he wants more clarity in Maple Ridge’s bylaw and points out smokers have to keep certain distances from doors before they light up.

Many people don’t even know about the new bylaw, he added.

According Maple Ridge school board spokesman Irena Pochop, dogs on school fields, and the waste and holes in the grass that they leave from digging, is an ongoing issue, although only one principal wanted to discuss the topic.

An off-leash dog area has alleviated any problem at Laity View elementary, said principal Shelley Linton.

Prior to that, though, dogs were on the school fields.

“From out point of view, it’s been excellent. We have the occasional mess but nothing like we’ve had before.”

Linton says there are many places people can take their dogs. It’s just easier for them to take them to school fields. “The problem is they don’t always see what their dogs are doing when they run so far away. They just don’t see it.”

She agreed, while dogs are no longer allowed on the playing fields, maybe they also should be banned from the sidelines, where they dig holes to pass the time while games are played.

But there are few signs telling people of the bylaw and it’s difficult to monitor those who do and don’t follow the rules. Many pet owners take their pooping pooches to the fields under the cover of darkness, after hours.

“They’re [dog owners] not down there during the day.”

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