Dogs will not be allowed on Broadway or in Prospero Place after a large number of submissions opposing the idea were received by council.
In February this year, Stratford councillors had backed a draft Control of Dogs 2020 bylaw and policy that stated leashed dogs be allowed along Broadway and Prospero Place. The draft document was then put out for public consultation and attracted what Councillor John Sandford called one of the biggest responses he had seen in his 25 years on council.
With more than 80 per cent of the submissions received clearly opposed to allowing dogs into the central CBD area, councillors made a U-turn on the earlier decision and adopted an amended version of both the bylaw and policy in last week's council meeting.
Another amendment to the two documents was also made, at the suggestion of mayor Neil Volzke, to allow for disability assist dogs to be exempt from the ruling, as well as dogs in cars parked in the area.
While it was generally accepted as a given that service dogs would be exempt from the rule, Mayor Volzke said he wanted it to be as clear as possible. He also raised the idea of allowing dogs to be in cars along Broadway.
"We no longer have parking meters they can be tied to, but allowing people to keep them in their cars means they could still access the businesses on Broadway."
The majority of the submissions focused on issues around mess and hygiene and the safety of other residents, especially the elderly or children.
Councillor Min McKay, who was the only councillor to vote in favour of dogs being allowed in the CBD, said while she understood the point of view of the submitters who opposed allowing dogs on Broadway and in Prospero Place, she felt allowing dogs would make the area "more vibrant" and attract more people to the area. She said while she accepted many people had a genuine fear of dogs, there were also a large number of people "with a huge love of dogs".
Having travelled overseas, she said, she had seen many towns and cities were dogs were allowed in the central areas.
"It does provide a really nice environment."
Councillor Gloria Webby said she had spoken to many senior citizens in the district about the subject.
"All were opposed to the idea, especially in Prospero Place, that is the hub of the town. They do not like the idea of dogs where there are so many food places."
Councillor Grant Boyde said he thought Stratford was already a "dog friendly town", despite deciding to vote against allowing dogs in the CBD.
Safety, said Councillor Boyde, was the most important factor in the decision for him.
"Safety's at the forefront of the decisions we make."
He had walked along Broadway himself, canvassing the opinions of business owners in the area he said.
"Six of the businesses I spoke to were totally against it, two were undecided and the rest were not really concerned."
He was surprised the Stratford Business Association (SBA) had not put in a submission on behalf of its members.
"I was disappointed and surprised about that."
In an emailed statement, Matthew Dimock, SBA chairman, says while the SBA did not make a submission, it did inform members of the opportunity to make submissions with it mentioned in three separate newsletters the SBA sent out.
The committee did also discuss making a submission in it, he said.
"As there are differing views between members, we felt it was more an individual choice. Our role is to advocate rather than to make decisions for our members.
"Our position is to inform our members and to advocate. If there was an issue that our members felt strongly about in unison then yes we would make a submission to the council on their behalf. Otherwise, we will provide the information and encourage members to make an individual submission."
The policy and bylaw was amended to remove the clause allowing dogs in the CBD and Prospero Place before being adopted by councillors, with only Councillor McKay voting against it. The policy and bylaw will come into place on August 17.
Disclaimer: Ilona Hanne is married to the CEO of Stratford District Council.