In 1995 three different groups of dog owners contacted the City of Mississauga in regards to setting up Off Leash Parks. They asked that the by‑law would be amended to permit the existence of designated Leash‑Free Zones within the boundaries of Mississauga. Six Pilot parks were set up in the City’s Parkland of various sizes, different fencing types etc.
Public meetings were held after the 12 month pilot and surveys were sent out to adjacent residents. Four of the six pilot zones were kept and one was relocated.
A report went to Mayor and Council in 1997 in which both the Parks By-Law and the Animal Control By-Law were changed to allow designated areas in certain parks to be off-leash areas. Also in this report was the stipulation that all costs associated with the set-up of the Leash-Free Zones would be incurred by the Volunteer groups, and that the day to day operation of the zones was maintained by these groups.
An interim committee with representatives from each of the groups was set up so the City of Mississauga, Recreation and Parks would deal with one group as opposed to 5 individual groups. This is how Leash‑Free Mississauga was formed. The Group was assigned a City Liaison person who assisted them with the set-up of their group, fund-raising opportunities and dealing with other departments within the City.
Leash-Free Mississauga is an affiliated volunteer group with the City of Mississauga. They are the “umbrella” group that is responsible for fund raising, sponsorship, overall operations and liaising with the City. There were individuals groups located at each location who oversaw the day to day operation of the zones. The volunteer groups were to supply poop bags, clean up days and run fund raising events. Leash-Free Mississauga is responsible for all costs associated with the set-up of zones and the maintenance of the zones. Any new zones also are paid by the group. The City assumes the up-front costs and Leash-Free Mississauga pays the City back. When a new zone is opened the Parks By-law is changed to allow for off-leash dogs in the specified area.
The set-up of the original 5 zones was $24 000 in which the City of Mississauga paid for with the understanding that the group would pay these costs back in a 5 year term. Leash-Free Mississauga agreed to charge a $10.00 membership fee for one dog, in which 70% of this fee would be put towards paying the debt. The group managed to pay this off in just under 3 years and set up two more zones in which another $16 000 was spent. The group paid off all of these obligations to the City of Mississauga in 5 ½ years.
All in all we have had very little incidents within the Leash-Free Zones, they are well maintained and there is a great relationship with Recreation and Parks and Animal Control.