Owen Sound Sun Times: Plover-harassing dog costly

Leah Articles, Local News

Article originally posted August 19, 2011

By Staff, Owen Sound Sun Times

A Wasaga Beach man learned a costly lesson after his dog chased piping plovers at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.

Reza Khalaj has been fined $1,000 for allowing his dog to harass the birds on June 15. He was observed walking his unleashed dog in Beach Area One at the park, where signs are posted along the beach advising that dogs are not permitted on the beach in the area at any time, according to a news release from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

A pair of piping plovers, which are designated as an endangered species, had nested in the area and hatched four chicks. A fence was erected around the nesting area with signs warning that the nesting area is closed and to keep out. The area is constantly monitored by park staff and volunteers to protect the birds, the ministry said in the news release.

On June 15, two guardians saw the unleashed dog enter the enclosure from the water and chase the birds throughout the fenced area. They distracted the dog and none of the birds was injured.

Khalaj was convicted under the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act regulations for permitting a domestic animal to harass wildlife in a provincial park. The case was heard in Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie on Monday.

Editorial comment
It is not the intention of the Piping Plover program to restrict dog use on Sauble Beach; however, two issues arise. Sauble Beach is a Blue Flag beach, and for that reason a town by-law restricts dog activity during the spring and summer. Dogs are also predators, and if not under owner control, are likely to disturb or harrass endangered species. Remember to keep control of your pets in public areas, or in the wilderness, and don’t allow them to chase wildlife (whether endangered or not). At Sauble Beach, there are dog friendly sections of beach near Main Street. If at Wasaga Beach, double check area signage or call the park office to confirm the location of the dog-friendly beach space.