History 2014

KPDC History 2014

KPDC History – 2014

Kilcona Park Dog Club’s 2014 agenda can best be described as “ambitious.” With the last of the new park benches installed in the spring, the Board turned its attention to two more major park stewardship initiatives: off-leash area water features and dog waste bag dispensers for Kilcona. At the same time, the Board continued to focus on advocacy, park stewardship, responsible pet ownership, and club awareness and promotion.

The Water Features Project

KPDC’S proposed bringing potable water into the off-leash area and installing a drinking fountain, dog rinse station and splash pad.

    

The impetus for the proposal was a serious canine health issue. Local veterinarians confirmed that dogs that were exposed to Kilcona retention pond water, either by swimming in it or drinking it, were getting sick.

On January 21, 2014 KPDC presented its proposal to the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee and asking for its support. While Councillors Browaty, Wyatt and Steen did not commit any financial assistance for the project, they did express tentative support and directed the Winnipeg Public Service to help the club move ahead with the project.

Speaking to the media after the presentation KPDC President Donna Henry said she was pleased with the results. “What the club wanted was permission to build the facility and receive financial assistance from the City”.

In April KPDC’s Director of Marketing and Communications began working on the first phase of the project. A certified Project Management Professional, Jeff Henry taught project management at University of Winnipeg. An agreement between KPDC and the U of W, allowed a team of qualified students comprising chemical, civil, electrical, electronic, hydrological, and mechanical engineers and architects to conduct a project feasibility study at no cost to the club. The study included project scheduling and costs.

Reflecting on the research team’s achievements, Jeff said,

“We had to determine if this project was even possible. The team determined that it was.”

 

Inspecting the utility room in the picnic shelter

Further down the road, during the second phase of the project, the club hoped to connect Kilcona Park to the municipal water system. With a source of potable water and a source of electrical power into the off-leash area, a drinking water fountain would then be installed.  Phase 3 would see the installation of a dog rinse station with heated water. During the fourth and final phase dog splash pad would be installed in the off-leash area.

On July 28, 2014 Jeff presented the results of the U of W feasibility study, including costs and the proposed phasing of the project to KPDC’s general membership.

There was a sense of urgency in securing potable water for Kilcona. Over the summer KPDC received a flood of emails from anxious dog owners whose pets had developed serious gastrointestinal, urinary tract and skin infections. Some were being treated for water-borne parasites.

Swimming in Kilcona retention pond

The symptoms were alarming.

“On July 1st I had to rush my dog to the emergency vet after he started to vomit blood and had severe bloody diarrhea. He had been feeling listless for 2 days since my last visit to Kilcona Park…After spending $700 at the vet I found out he had gastroenteritis which was most likely caused from drinking contaminated water. I thought I would let you know since he spends a lot of time at your park.”

“It’s just horrible…after swimming in Kilcona’s ponds most of my girl’s fur fell out – all the parts that got wet. She’s almost completely bald.  She can’t stop scratching. Her skin is red, raw and bleeding.”

“My 4 year old purebred German Shepherd just loves the water.  As obedient as he is, on a hot day I can’t keep him from going for a quick dip & drinking the water.  He gets a terrible red & itchy rash from just even going in the water once & many times I’ve had to end up putting him on antibiotics for diarrhoea that will not clear up on its own.  I no longer take my dogs to the park when it’s the least bit hot because of the severe consequences.  So, the whole summer, when it’s the nicest for me to walk, I am a senior, I avoid the park.”

Veterinarians reported that symptoms were consistent with exposure to E. coli bacteria. KPDC’s Board was not surprised; a member of the Kilcona Park Master Plan Steering Committee had shared an email from Water and Waste’s Acting Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Officer. In response to Al MacDonald’s inquiry about pond water testing at Kilcona Chris Kozak wrote,

“We also do surface water testing on the ponds and compare the [results] to guidelines. The microbiological parameters (total coliform and E.coli) in the ponds from wildlife is very high…[The water]  may not be suitable for swimming.

News of the sick dogs spread through the dog park community. There was growing awareness that the park’s retention ponds might be contaminated with high levels of bacteria. Dog owners also realized that fissures in the clay cap surrounding the former landfill that had allowed methane to seep into the ponds were also a potential  escape route for the toxic soup known as leachate.

This was not the first summer that Kilcona dogs had gotten sick. KPDC’s Board had made repeated requests to the parks department to post water quality warning signs in the off-leash area.to minimize the risk to dogs – the same signs that the City had installed around the ponds in Kilcona’s on-leash area. In spite of the outbreak of canine illnesses in the summer of 2014, Parks and Open Space continued to ignore the call for action.

 In an interview with Global News, club  President Donna Henry explained,

We just want more signs, so if this is your first time in the park and you’re bringing a new puppy here, as soon as you get to the trail head here, you understand that your dog should not be going in this water.”

In August KPDC’s President wrote to the Director of Water and Waste, asking for the results of the City’s most recent pond water tests. According to Henry,

“The City wouldn’t return our phone calls and they wouldn’t respond to our emails. So we said, OK, the only way we are going to get this information is if we test the water ourselves.”

In September KPDC’s Board contracted ALS Environmental to analyse pond water samples from two locations:  the northwest pond and the south channel at the popular “Dog Launch”.

 

Environmental technologist Caitlin Doucette takes water samples from the ponds

The results were alarming. E. coli bacteria levels reached 4600 bacteria per 100 millilitres of water — 23 times Health Canada’s recommended safe limit for swimmers and more than four times the limit for recreational users, such as canoeists, kayakers and paddle boaters.

When KPDC went public; the story was widely reported by local media. In an interview with CBC News, Communications Officer Lisa Fraser responded on behalf of the City, confirming that it did conduct random water-quality tests. She expanded on Chris Kozak’s earlier comment that wildlife was responsible for high coliform and E.coli levels.

“It is possible that the higher levels of E. coli that the community group is reporting may have been caused by the large number of geese currently using the pond as part of their annual migration or by dog feces from the adjacent dog park that have not been picked up and disposed of properly. Animal feces would be washed into the pond by rainwater.”

Stating the obvious, the City’s spokesperson told Global News,

“Retention pond water should never be used, drunk, or swum in.”

To raise awareness of the health risks, KPDC launched an educational campaign advising people to keep their dogs out of the ponds.

In September KPDC presented the results of the U of W feasibility study at a meeting with Parks and Open Spaces, Water and Waste administrators and North Kildonan City Councillor Jeff Browaty. City officials approved the project in principle and Councillor Browaty offered to match funds that the club raised.

Finally, in November, responding to public pressure, the City installed water quality warning signs in Kilcona’s off-leash area that November.

 

New water quality warning signs are finally installed in the dog park

Dog Waste Bag Dispensers

“Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms and one of them’s making a poop and the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?”- Jerry Seinfeld, comedian.

Another responsible dog owner doing his duty!

In 2014 KPDC began work on another important stewardship project in response to complaints about the amount of dog waste being left in the park. Inspired by an American study that indicated clean-up compliance increased by up to 95% in parks that provide waste bag dispensers, KPDC considered installing several at Kilcona.

KPDC’s Director of Marketing approached the club’s Platinum Sponsor, Royal LePage Prime Real Estate with a proposal. The partners agreed they would purchase bag dispensers. Royal LePage Prime offered to buy bags on an ongoing basis if parks staff would check the dispensers regularly and keep them filled. The concept was supported by Winnipeg Animal Services COO Leland Gordon and North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty.

In early April KPDC ‘s President pitched the idea to the Parks Department, highlighting the potential benefits – a cleaner park for the public and a way for the club and a local business to give back to the community –  all at no cost to the City.

“A very nice opportunity has presented itself that will help address the ongoing dog waste management issue.

KPDC and one of our sponsors propose to jointly fund the purchase of up to twelve single-pull bag dispensers for the off-leash area. They would be installed near waste baskets along the off-leash trails…

In addition, the sponsor has offered to supply waste bags on an ongoing basis if parks staff agrees to check the dispensers regularly and keep them filled….

The total cost of the dispensers, posts and hardware is approximately $1400. KPDC volunteers would install the posts and attach the dispensers so there would be no cost to the City for labour…

We would like to install the bag dispensers this spring, if possible around the time of the annual park clean-up for obvious reasons – or as soon as the ground is free of frost.”

The Park Superintendent’s response was less than enthusiastic, foreshadowing miles of bureaucratic red tape and a series of setbacks that would delay the project for the next two years.

“Sorry for the delay here…These are the issues at hand:

As per Maple Grove who do their own waste collection – and other off leash areas that may supply their own doggy bags, the City has no current resources to monitor and maintain the dispensers with bags. We can’t commit to keep these dispensers full. Perhaps Animal Services could provide that service when they monitor the site.

And if I understand you correctly you are proposing to install the dispensers yourselves. Unfortunately, unless you have a contractor in your organization who is cleared as a current “Vendor” by Materials Management to work on City of Winnipeg property, with all the proper insurance etc, we could not permit your organization to perform construction work in our parks.”

Despite the lukewarm response from the City, KPDC’s Board was encouraged by the support of Jefferson County Colorado’s Animal Control Manager, Carla Zinati. In July Zinati gave KPDC permission to use her agency’s light-hearted “Poop Fairy” artwork and messaging on bag dispenser signs.

 “Like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, the fabled poop fairy has been the stuff of legend. Flying undetected in parks, neighborhoods and schoolyards, she was said to follow close behind dogs and their owners — picking up what the dog left behind, before flying off to the next canine creation. A widespread belief that she existed seemed to reassure some that cleaning up after one’s dog was sort of … optional.”

However, in response to a growing number of poop piles, and a growing number of citizen complaints, [we] bring you this public service announcement: There is no poop fairy.”

Advocacy

Grassroots advocacy has become an increasingly effective way for non-profit organizations to create change. In simple terms, grassroots advocacy groups raise awareness about causes and issues that matter to them in order to influence public perception. They lobby elected officials to influence public policy, legislation and regulations.

In 2014, it became apparent that advocacy regarding the City’s proposal to reduce the size of Kilcona’s off-leash area had paid off for Kilcona dog owners. On September 24, 2014, City Council approved a new master plan for Kilcona Park, which saw a slight increase to the off-leash area. And responding KPDC’s request, Council also approved an amendment designating the pond trails as a seasonal off-leash area.

President Donna Henry lobbies City Council to include pond trails in dog park

Membership

As an advocate for Kilcona dog owners, KPDC’s effectiveness is directly related to the size of its membership base. It’s a simple equation – more members equal more voters and more voters mean greater political influence. KPDC members have been quick to lobby elected officials when they need to.

Advocacy was not the only reason KPDC needed to grow its membership base. The proposal to bring potable water into the off-leash area and install a drinking water fountain, dog rinse station and splash pad underscored the need to recruit more members to help raise tens of thousands of dollars to fund the project, while freeing up Board members to negotiate with the City and the Province and work with government officials and contractors.

With twenty-seven sponsors offering discounts and benefits, KPDC’s value-added Corporate Sponsorship Program continued to attract members. Building on the program, the Board explored other opportunities to increase membership. Including an “Early Bird Renewal Program”. Over the summer volunteers held a series of pop-up membership drives at the park.

Early Bird membership drive at the park

A chance to win valuable “Early Bird Contest” prizes encouraged dog owners to purchase 2015 memberships before their 2014 memberships expired. Savvy dog owners who bought early got an extra benefit – their annual membership locked in eligibility for KPDC sponsor discounts and benefits for more than a year. By the club’s year-end (October 31, 2014) KPDC’s membership had increased from 424 to 446.

Communications

In 2014, KPDC updated its website to allow the Board to communicate more effectively with members.

The Director of Marketing and Communication pointed out that “the old website was hard to administer and – as the club grew – the free website-hosting service that had been so important in the early days of limited cash flow no longer served the needs of the club” (Interview, 2016).

Jeff Henry recommended the Board “update the look and feel of our website and create one that was more easily managed, one that could provide more graphic capabilities, and had a better email system.” (Interview, 2016). Long-time corporate sponsor, Engage, 6 provided technical support and assisted with the transition.

The new site provided members with easy access to park news, club events and activities, KPDC’s history, AGM and GGM minutes, as well as memorial section and sponsorship information. KPDC’s new web-based email system was much more flexible, allowing members to contact individual Directors directly.

Fundraising

KPDC’S energetic Fundraising Director, Maria Conley, had a no shortage of ideas for filling the club’s coffers for the high priority – but costly – water features project.

The “Make a Splash” campaign was launched to fund the project. The Board had limited fundraising experience and, as with any new initiative, there were lessons to be learned.

KPDC held its first Bud, Spud and Steak Night on November 7th, 2014 at Transcona’s CanadInn.

Directors Maria Conley (L) and Stacey Boone (C) with friends at Bud, Spud and Steak

 It was an ambitious fundraising event that required careful planning and organizing, and a lot of hard work. Directors and volunteers sold tickets, gathered silent auction prizes, and ran the event.

With a percentage of tickets sales going to the club, a 50/50 draw, and over twenty high-quality silent auction prizes that had a broad appeal to adults, children and dogs alike – including an etching by an Ontario painter- the Board expected that event would be highly profitable. However, a late start in ticket sales resulted in profits were that were marginal in relation to expectations.

Enthusiastic fundraising volunteers also sold “Make a Splash” raffle tickets at club events, at pet fairs, and fundraising drives at the park during the summer. The prizes were attractive – a $500 Genuwine wine cellar package, $225 in restaurant gift certificates, and a $100 Mini Wii, but for a second time this year revenue was less than expected because raffle sales started late and tickets were not sold at public venues as they had been in the past.

Barb Kyweriga and Michelle Champagne selling raffle tickets at Kilcona

Winnipeg Dog Fest

Although the club’s annual BBQs were no longer considered mainstays of fundraising, the events continued to be one of the club’s core activities. Re-branded as Winnipeg Dog Fest, the party in the park that celebrates dogs was a way to foster the development of a strong dog community, raise KPDC’s profile, & increase membership.

Family fun at Dog Fest

Dog Fest also gave KPDC’s corporate sponsors an opportunity to interact with club members and showcase their products and services.

Sponsors, partners and Dog Festers

 In the spirit of fun, KPDC expanded Dog Fest activities. At Pawcasso’s Photo Studio professional photographer and videographer, Vince Pahkala, took studio portraits of dogs and their families, donating the profits to the club for park improvements.

Vince Pahkala taking a portrait at Pawcasso’s Studio

Robyn Maharaj and Robyn Gibbons serve dog treats at KPDC’s new bistro

At June Dog Fest, KPDC opened Happy Dog’s “Bon Appetit” Bistro and Bar. Bistro Manager Kathleen Kirkman explained,

“Until now we had only been serving human food at club BBQs. We started to realize that our doggy friends deserved a food menu of their own. As they say, “Happy dog, happy dog owner”!

Our Bone Appetit Bistro served puppy-friendly dog treats, all made of human grade food. Our first offerings for the spring festival were pupperoni pizzas, cheese muttballs and Weimeraner wieners. The cheese muttballs were an enormous success and the dogs were licking their chops with fits of glee, drooling for more! We may have made monsters of our dogs as they pawed relentlessly at their owners’ pant legs for more treats.

We embellished the bistro site with cafe tables lined with red and white table clothes and potted flowers, all imitating the theme of a real Parisian restaurant for our furry friends. A chalk board advertising the menu of the day was on display.

Even though the financial rewards of the sales at the Bistro were minimal, we realized that that the idea of the Bon Appetit Bistro had the potential to develop into a very successful venture in the future. So at this time, we were not that discouraged by the poor financial gains on our first try.

At the Fall Dog Fest, on the menu we kept those treats that sold successfully at the Spring Dog Fest, namely the mutt balls and we added to the menu with pugs in the blanket; pumpkin cranberry pupcakes iced with an extravagant cream cheese icing, and Boston Terrier ham and bacon pizzas.

We sent out Dog Fest evaluations and the feed-back indicted that the bistro was a real success!”

The opening of Winnipeg’s first “paw-pup” restaurant for dogs prompt CBC News to quip,

“Pupperoni pizza, anyone? Dog’s breakfast sausages, perhaps?

Bone Appetit, the city’s first ‘paw-pup’ restaurant for dogs and their humans, went up Saturday at a new event in the city.

The inaugural Winnipeg Dog Fest took place in Kilcona Park.

Among the activities were Superdog demonstrations, a dog-themed treasure hunt and Manitoba’s mobile vet clinic was there microchipping dogs and doing heart worm tests.

Organized by the Kilcona Park Dog Club, it was the club’s first major fundraising event of the year.

North-Kildonan Councillor, Jeff Browaty, presented club president Donna Henry with a cheque for just over $20,000. The funds pay for park improvements such as benches and wheelchair accessible picnic tables.

North Kildonan Councillor and KPDC President Donna Henry

 But the club is also starting to fundraise for new projects, ranging from a drinking water fountain and a dog wash station to a splash pad.

Henry said the Dog Fest is to “celebrate everything dog,” but it’s also to raise the $100,000 needed to pay for those projects.

It was also to promote a new organization to see dog-friendly candidates elected to city hall in the municipal election this fall.

Browaty said dog owners in the city are making their views known, but at the same time, they are regular people who use parks.

“Whether you have dogs or not, this is an amenity that the city of Winnipeg provides,” he said. “People who have dogs are also taxpayers and the people who use parks are paying for these amenities.”

Browaty said he was impressed with the turn-out.

“It’s quite a community that have come together here,” he said. “It’s the largest dog park in area, but I also think it’s the largest in terms of the community spirit that comes out here. You can come by this park 365 days a year, middle of winter, minus 40, there’s people walking their dogs.” (CBC, June 7th, 2014).

Volunteers

KPDC’s first Director of Volunteers, Stacy Boone worked hard to build a strong, active volunteer base to support core activities like Dog Fest and park clean ups but also the club’s water feature fundraising activities.

The Director’s job was a challenging one, requiring strong organizational skills and the patience of a saint. It meant spending hours on the phone trying to contact and recruit members – not an easy task given that the club needed upward of 24 volunteers for Dog fest alone. It also meant coordinating volunteers at club events, making them feel welcomed and part of the team, and sending letters of thanks to those who helped out.

In 2014, forty volunteers participated in fundraising endeavours. They were an energetic group of individuals who often helped out at more than one event. Some had been active for several years.

Long-time volunteer Corrie Shore said she became a volunteer because

“I have a dog and utilize the park. I believe in giving back and animals are something I feel passionate about” (Interview, 2016)

Corrie was a superstar, holding the all-time record when it came to 50/50 sales.  Meandering through the crowds, chatting up and laughing with visitors, she engaged them easily with humour and her sparkling personality. She said, “I have no fear of talking to people so this volunteering job suits my personality” (Interview, 2016)

Corrie Shore and Kathy Burdeny-Pahkala at KPDC social

Pia Marschall became a volunteer because

“I was new to Winnipeg and I thought this was my opportunity to get to know people and to socialize with them. I came from Austria and I didn’t have many friends in the city at that time” (Interview, 2016).

Others were also drawn in by friendship and camaraderie. One long-time volunteer remembers

 “If we weren’t battling high winds that threatened to blow our gazebos in all directions, while we held on for dear life, we were busy handing out drinks to the long line ups of eager people at the food counter.” Recalling a four-legged thief that grabbed a hot dog and ran off with it, she remembers having  “heaps of fun” keeping dogs out of the grill pit.

KPDC volunteer Pia Marschall

Angel Pederson travelled across the city to help with park events and the Bud, Spud and Steak Night. Talk about dedication!

KPDC  volunteer Angel Pederson

For Angel, volunteering was a way to give back to the community. Since she enjoyed running her dog in the park when time permitted, she felt it was important to support the club.

Angie Carriere, Donna Henry, Gail Warywoda, Carol Barrett, Kathleen Kirkman

Another volunteer mentioned that volunteering gave her a sense of purpose. She enjoyed talking with fellow volunteers and the people that attended the events. What she liked most was finding out about people’s dogs and where they got them. She was amazed that people were so fond of their dogs and never tired of talking about them. While some of the stories were heartbreaking, her experience was very rewarding.

WINDOG

While Kilcona Park Dog Club celebrated the gains it had made in its first ten years, the larger struggle to create and protect good recreational off-leash space throughout the city was far from over.

The needs were obvious. In 2014 Winnipeg was losing its off-leash recreational space at an alarming rate. The city had less off-leash space than it had in 1998, when its first dog parks were created. City administrators had reduced the size of two of the largest dog parks – Maple Grove and Little Mountain – by over fifty percent. The closure of Plessis Road Dog Park left Transcona without any off-leash space.

In Winnipeg’s west end, Assiniboine Community Committee Councillors Grant Nordman (St. Charles), Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) and Paula Havixbeck (Tuxedo-Charleswood) hoped to turn an unused playground in Voyageur Park into an off-leash dog park. Parks administrators recommended against it. The Councillors rejected the administration’s recommendation.

But, as elected officials stood up for dog parks, the administration quietly closed one more. The loss of Juba Park left downtown Winnipeg without any off-leash space.

The future was even bleaker; Charleswood Dog Park was being closed to make way to extend the William Clement Parkway and Brenda Leipsic would be closed to make way for a bus rapid transit line and 35,000 new homes.

Half of the remaining off-leash areas – Kilcona, Mazenod, Westview, Surgeon and Silver, and Woodsward – were located on marginal lands in industrial areas, former garbage dumps, and road allowances. Most Winnipeg neighbourhoods had no dog parks.

The time had come for political action. Winnipeg dog park stewardship organizations needed to speak with one voice, advocating and lobbying for safe, well-serviced and well maintained dog parks; and sound off-leash legislation, policies, and practices.

In April 2014 the Winnipeg Network of Dog Owners Groups (WINDOG) – a coalition of Kilcona, Little Mountain and Maple Grove off leash area stewardship groups – held its first AGM and elected its first Board of Directors.

WINDOG Directors – Jordan Lobe, Colin Lang and Donna Henry

The coalition’s top priorities were to persuade the City to increase quality off-leash recreational space in the city and implement a comprehensive off-leash area master plan that would be a framework for the management of all Winnipeg dog parks.

In 2013, the City had taken a shortcut, awarding a contract for the development of toothless, lightweight off-leash area “guidelines”. When the guidelines were released to the public in May 2014, awareness of the coalition and its efforts got an unexpected boost thanks to public support from the Winnipeg Humane Society, which lent its authority and credibility to WINDOG’s lobbying efforts. WHS was about to lose its only access to off-leash green space at Brenda Leipsic Dog Park – just across the fence from the Society’s outdoor dog pens.

For the province’s largest animal shelter, this was an urgent matter. WHS takes in over 8,000 animals a year. In selecting a site for its new facility, built in 2007, the Society’s Board of Directors had chosen the Hurst Street location because of its proximity to Brenda Leipsic.

Winnipeg Humane Society CEO  Bill McDonald

WINDOG’s Vice President, Donna Henry, and the Winnipeg Humane Society’s CEO, Bill McDonald, appeared before the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services to speak in opposition to the guidelines, declaring they didn’t go far enough to create and protect the city’s off-leash recreational green space. Both objected to the complete lack of public consultation with the Humane Society, dog park users, professional dog day care service providers and other key stakeholders.

Both spoke in support of a comprehensive off-leash area master plan to replace the flawed guidelines. McDonald noted that past practice has been to create temporary dog parks, which is not proper city planning. He observed, “The City bought into off-leash dog parks at the original stage and now they seem to be shrinking them a little bit at a time” (CBC News, Leslie McLaren May 1, 2014)

In spite of the fact that most Councillors had not had enough time to read the report, the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services voted to approve it.

The following week WINDOG made a second presentation, appealing to the Executive Policy Committee. This time WINDOG was successful, persuading EPC that the guidelines were seriously flawed. The committee declined to approve them.

In July the Executive Policy Committee approved funding for the creation of a comprehensive off-leash area master plan. WINDOG had been heard; the coalition was influencing decisions about Winnipeg off-leash dog parks.

WINDOG’s newly-elected Board of Directors took immediate steps to launch a campaign to elect a dog-friendly City Council. With the municipal election just six months away, the Board knew it would have to work quickly to create awareness of the fledgling coalition and launch its “I own a dog and I Vote” campaign.

Getting WINDOG’s message out quickly was critical to the campaign’s success and to that end the media played an important role. In May WINDOG issued a series of press releases highlighting the situation of off-leash dog parks and promoting the “I own a dog AND I vote” campaign”. The message fell on sympathetic ears of reporters at CBC radio and television, CTV (English and French), Global New, Winnipeg Free Press, Canstar, Metro and CJOB.

With no time to re-invent the wheel, WINDOG needed to find out how similar campaigns had been run in other cities the past. Donna Henry, KPDC’s representative on WINDOG Board of Directors, sought advice on dog park political action strategies from the New York Council of Dog Owner Groups. Then WINDOG approached Vancouver’s “I own a Dog AND I vote” Committee Chair to learn how they ran a successful campaign to elect a dog-friendly Mayor and Council in 2008. Speaking to the media, Henry said Winnipeg dog parks “deserve the same amenities as other parks, yet many are under pressure from developers, transit plans and other plans that favour [other] park users at the expense of off-leash dog areas.” (CBC News, May 1, 2014.)

A key component of WINDOG’s campaign was a new interactive website developed by KPDC’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Jeff Henry. It allowed viewers to click on ward maps, compare candidates’ responses to a WINDOG survey, and determine how “dog-friendly” each candidate was in terms of protecting and/or improving the existing off-leash areas and developing future dog parks.

As part of the campaign, KPDC volunteers sold “I own a dog AND I vote” bumper stickers at club events, at the Winnipeg Humane Society’s “Paws in Motion”, and Little Mountain and Maple Grove club BBQs. During the summer volunteers sold bumper stickers at Kilcona Park.

KPDC member Heather Vandenberg shows off her new bumper sticker

For those living in wards that were not dog friendly, WINDOG encouraged dog owners to write elected officials and advocate for better services.

On Election Day, the results were favorable. Winnipeggers elected a dog-friendly Mayor and a majority of dog friendly City Councillors. Mayor Bowman promised funding to create a new dog park at The Forks.

WINDOG’s “I own a dog AND I vote” campaign clearly demonstrated that grassroots advocacy is one of the most effective ways that ordinary people can make their voices heard on issues they care about.

Summary

All in all, 2014 was a productive year in which KPDC launched two major park improvement projects, installed three new park benches and ramped up its fundraising. Over the year, KPDC also grew its membership and enhanced its volunteer base. The Board learned lessons from its disappointments and celebrated its successes.

KPDC’s Board became more active politically and more adept at manoeuvring through the labyrinth of endless city departments. As a founding member of WINDOG, KPDC played important roles in persuading the City to develop a comprehensive off-leash area master plan and in electing a dog-friendly City Council.

At the club’s November 2014 AGM, the following members were elected to the Board.

President: Donna Henry

Vice President: Randean Kopytko

Secretary: Kathleen Kirkman

Treasurer: Daria Zenchuk

Director of Events: Sasha Emric

Director of Marketing and Communications: Jeff Henry

Director of Membership: Corrie Shore

*** Deanna Buller and Sheila Fortier later joined the Board and served briefly as Directors of Fundraising***

 

JDHoggs