The City of Whitehorse has thrown local dog handlers a bone.
Canine groups will again be allowed to hold lessons in the Takhini Arena mezzanine, the city announced this week. The agreement is for a one-year trial period, expiring next April, said Chris Milner, manager of recreation and facility services.
City administration said there were concerns about people having allergic reactions to dogs. It was also concerned about potential conflicts between the dog groups and other users of the arena. Some were also concerned about finding dog hairs in the ventilation system.
These reasons were “fuzzy” at best, said Glenn Wadsworth, chair of the Dog Handlers’ Facility Group that includes both for-profit and not-for-profit dog groups. Wadsworth is also the secretary of the Yukon Kennel Club, an organization that has been holding classes in the arena for at least 20 years.
The dog groups are the only ones who use the mezzanine, and the doors to the area are usually locked unless the space is being rented out, he said. Opportunities for conflict were slim. There are also doors just below the stairs leading to the mezzanine that the groups could use. And the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, Brendan Hanley, told the group deathly allergies to dogs are extremely rare, he said.
“There was no place else for us to train,” said Wadsworth.
Under city bylaws, Whitehorse residents can’t have more than two dogs unless the dogs and owners earn a Good Neighbour Certificate. The dog clubs provide the classes needed for those certificates, said Wadsworth.
Groups spent a year and a half looking for another space. But they couldn’t find one they could afford.
Private trainers found other class locations because they needed the space to run their businesses, said Wadsworth. That meant there were fewer groups to pay for renting the mezzanine. It cost around $30,000 annually to rent the space.
“It just seemed to be a situation that put us in a great deal of jeopardy when the city acknowledged we performed a very reasonable service that was beneficial to the citizens of Whitehorse for safety and canine good neighbours,” said Wadsworth.
The Yukon Kennel Club has been able to hold small, beginner classes at the Neighbourhood Pup on Fourth Avenue, said Wadsworth. But the Whitehorse Woofers, another group that uses the Takhini Arena, hasn’t been able to hold classes at all since being banned, said secretary Andrew Richardson.
Neither the Whitehorse Woofers nor the Yukon Kennel Club have set their class schedules for the remainder of the winter.
The city plans to regularly test the arena’s air quality. The dog groups will use a separate entrance, and they will work harder to make sure the area says clean, said Milner. The rental costs will not change.
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