To The Editor,

I am a resident of the village of St-Eugène, and I believe there is a growing problem regarding the Prescott-Russell bicycle trail and unleashed dogs.

I have lived at the end of Mill Street, which is one of the access points for the trail, for just over 20 years. The paving of the trail has attracted many people over the past few years, which is wonderful. Families with strollers and well-behaved dogs, people of all ages riding their bikes, and even the elderly come to enjoy the area, sometimes in electric wheelchairs.

Perhaps it is because out here some residents consider themselves to be ‘in the country’, or perhaps it is a fundamental lack of education on dog behavior, or maybe it is simply a complete disregard for others – but the amount of unleashed and uncontrolled dogs on the trail is outrageous. Large, out-of-control dogs completely ignoring their owners are bounding up to unsuspecting walkers, hikers, and cyclists. I have witnessed several different dogs lunging at cyclists and jumping up on people including myself, as well as terrifying dog fights breaking out. This dangerous environment causes some residents to avoid the trail altogether, while others feel the need to walk with a baseball bat or a ski pole should they need to defend themselves!

I am not afraid of dogs and when I’ve been lunged at by these overexcited canines, whose owners repeatedly assure me while standing 100 feet away that their dog is “friendly” as it grabs my arms with its long claws and nearly knocks me over, I can stay calm. I attempt to patiently communicate to the dog owner the importance of leashing a dog in a public area, especially when it is obviously completely untrained, and I am confronted with the same nonsense each time…. “Oh, he’s ok, he’d never hurt anyone” or “she’s still young, she’ll grow out of it”.

The day will come, and it’s just a matter of time, when an elderly person will be knocked over and severely injured, a screeching child will be mauled, or another (probably small) dog will be injured or killed. Of course, everyone will be “in shock” that such a terrible thing could happen on this peaceful little trail – but I won’t be. I’ll have seen it coming from a mile away.

This past January I spoke with Jessy Hoffman, who is the animal control officer for East Hawkesbury. I requested that the municipality take steps to ensure the safety of their residents – communicating leash laws, posting risk of heavy fines, etc. He took my concerns seriously and forwarded them on January 29 to four employees of East Hawkesbury: L. Lalonde, H. Villeneuve, K. Sauve, and S. Sabourin with the following message: “FYI this needs to be looked into. Mme Bates is not the first to flag this issue”.

I have heard nothing back since then and dogs continue to run unrestrained up and down the trail. This is negligence on the part of the township and my hope is that the issue is brought to them again and pressure is placed on them to take action.

Andrea Bates, St-Eugene