Monday, August 14, 2017

Dog dies because of Mainlands Commons Dog Park in Halifax - who is to blame?

This past weekend a bernese mountain dog named Bear fell into a sinkhole at the Mainlands Common Dog Park in Halifax - breaking his shoulder and he was euthanized because the vet he was taken to felt there was no way because of his age and the injury that he could recover from what had happened to him.  He was a much beloved regular visitor to the park with his owner Mike and Carol and everyone who goes to the park knew Bear and his sister Reese - Bear was probably the fluffiest and well maintained Bernese that you'd ever meet, so you couldn't miss him.  Looking through my photos I can't believe I didn't take a picture of him but I'm sad to say I didn't.

What happened to Bear on Saturday didn't have to happen.  This isn't the first injury that's happened because of the sink holes that are all along the fence line in one part of the park - CBC talked to a greyhound owner (who I've also met) who had their leg broken this past winter.  These are also regular users of the park - and I'd imagine if someone plunked themselves down at the picnic tables at the park they'd hear a lot of horror stories about the lack of maintenance at this dog park - and it is completely unacceptable.

For some reason - dog owners just don't speak up about these things and it needs to stop.  We pay our taxes just like every other citizen of this municipality.  If conditions like this existed at a park used by children - and there are hundreds of parks for children - unlike dog parks of which this is the ONLY ONE DEDICATED TO DOGS IN THE WHOLE MUNICIPALITY - and as of 2014 the population of the HRM was 414,219 - it would be on the news everynight - the premier of Nova Scotia would be involved, money would be dropping from the sky - the world would be over for the municipal politicians.  And that is the truth.

There is a sinkhole so deep - the one that Bear fell into - that is waist deep.  And there are many more like that.

There are also holes in the fence along the perimeter - of the fenced in dog park - that allow dogs to escape.

At one point earlier this summer the city shut down the park for a couple of days to do maintenance work - it would be interesting to know what they did, because it doesn't seem as if any of that maintenance work is improving the quality of the experience for the dogs and their owners.

There is a facebook group for dog owners who go to Mainlands Common Dog Park and someone had a good comment - we have been contacting the wrong people with our concerns obviously - we have been contacting our Councillors with our complaints - but it is city staff who are the ones with the power - as it has been all along.

I have been writing blog posts about off leash exercise in the Halifax Municipality for a long time - I've had this blog since 2003 - so that's a long time to be writing about the same things.  I went to all the Off Leash Implementation Strategy meetings that were held by City Staff.

I sat in the room when the head of the Off Leash Strategy Implementation Strategy - John Charles - actually said to a room full of dog owners “parks are for people, we’re not in the business of building dog parks”

He said that after the city closed down Robert Park field in Dartmouth - also a totally fenced in dog park - after the city received TWO COMPLAINTS from non-dog owners.

Over the years city staff's hatred towards dog owners has almost seemed to border on pathological - at least from the dog owner's point of view - and now that dogs are actually being injured and dying - it is all just too much.  Something has to be done - and it must not be shutting down the very space that dogs go to to enjoy off leash exercise.

Some people think that dog parks are a bad idea - but for those who enjoy it - it is a vital part of their dog's life - for dogs that can handle that kind of exercise - they should be allowed to have it.

Dogs deserve to have every flavour of life - and if your dog can handle playing with other dogs in a large field - you should be provided with that space by your city. Period.  Children are provided with literally hundreds of public outdoor spaces in the HRM - the dogs of Halifax should be given at least ONE SPACE, don't you think?

And dog owners shouldn't be afraid that their dog is going to die because it is so poorly maintained every time they take their dog to that space.  That is for damn sure.

This is the sign that's at the entrance to the Mainlands Common Dog Park - there is no where that it says you have to bring gravel and dirt to fill in the sink holes that God has created since the last time you were at the park.  At least I don't read that anywhere here.

Bear's owner has sent a letter to Mayor Mike Savage and City Councillors and I think as many people as possible should read it - here it is:

To the Major and City Counsellors

I am holding you all personally responsible for the pain and suffering and eventual death of my dog (his name was Bear) on Aug 12.

I took him to the city dog park where he fell into a sink hole breaking his shoulder bone.

Because of the amount damage and the painful, unguaranteed recovery, it was determined the most loving thing to do was to have him put down.

It was the council’s decision to move the park from Africville, it was council’s decision to accept city staff’s poor planning for this dog park and it was your responsibility to make sure city staff addressed the concerns that have been voiced over the conditions of this park. As a Director of Operations, I understand my responsibilities and know they are not negated because I choose not to follow up or direct the staff, or conveniently look the other way while allowing them to make choices; this would be called leadership/management 101.

As all of you ran for office, standing on a soap box claiming to have the LEADERSHIP skills the city needed and the management skills to make it work, it is now time to STAND UP and prove to the voters that you don’t belong to the past self-serving, distrustful, power driven individuals with personal agendas from past electoral mistakes. It appears that once a person gets elected to an office they all seek to find the LEGACY ISSUE that will define their time in office, something the masses will remember them for. How about being remembered for actually caring for and doing what your position requires you to do? Manage the city in the moment, actually hear and listen to the people’s needs, while looking to the future.

Instead of all the wonderful memories of Bear’s time in my life and a future that still includes him, I get to relive the last 3 hours of his life, hearing him wail, whine and cry like no animal should, carrying him to the car as he bit me, laying on the floor with Bear and crying into his fur while knowing all the work that the doctor was doing would be for not, but could not say NO to, just in case! I hold you all accountable for this.

Accidents and mistakes happen in life but refusing to acknowledge them or to correct the core issue so it does not occur again, makes the leader a dangerous fool. I am looking for three items that will at least give Bears death some meaning.

Fix the present issues in this park for the safety of all dogs and their owners.

Give the dogs and their owners a place to go that both the animals and owners can enjoy, a park that has the space for a dog to play or allows them to just walk, a park that is esthetically pleasing and SAFE. A park that is not a reclaimed swamp area!

Honestly, because of the anger I feel for the city and how it has let me down in such a dramatic way after over 50 years of supporting them, I want to be reimbursed for the money I spent trying to save my dog, through no fault of my own.

I also plan to explore legal definition of animal cruelty or animal endan
rment and determine if you can be listed on an animal cruelty complaint and hopefully charged and convicted.

Pet owners represent a large financial base that support local business which in turn pays property taxes to this city. If you can spend 2 million dollars on bike lanes which has a lower tax return to the city, then build a Dog Park that the dogs and their owners deserve.

Bear’s Owner
Mike Goneau


  1. Anonymous10:40 PM

    It's always someone elses fault.....Jeez man, look after your dog

    1. Anonymous - are you fucking kidding me? Dogs should be able to run safely within the confines of the dog parks - what in the hell are you saying? You are a complete idiot

    2. Hi Anonymous, I was and am of two minds about this but had no idea till I saw the image in this story that the hole was so massive. I also didn't realize it had been reported six weeks previous or that a dog had broken its leg in a similar hole. Perhaps your comment would have more weight if you'd sign your name...

  2. Because I dont own a vehicle at the moment Mainland Commons is out of the way for me so I dont get out there often. I do belong to the Facebook group though so I've been watching and I was very sorry to hear about Bear's tragic accident although it seemed it was just a matter of time before something like this happened. The HRM staff and councillors need to do a better job and I hope that this will be the impetus for drastic change.

    I do want to mention that there is a smaller fully fenced in dog park on the peninsula, but it too has holes and areas at the bottom of the fences that are large enough for smaller dogs to get out through. The holes unfortunately are holes dug by dogs whose owners don't refill them. So that's another issue altogether.

    1. I know where you are talking about - and that dog park was meant to be for service dog owners only - which is also supposed to be maintained by city staff - and if a service dog owner is sight impaired - how are they supposed to know if their dog is digging a hole?

    2. The Service dog park has moved, I forget where but it's close to the one i mentioned. It has fancy new gate with access through a code and whatnot. Anyone can use the one on Cogswell now.

      The city does cut the grass and change the trash.


    3. that's a very small park and as you point out how is a visually impaired person spozed to see a hole to even report it.