Vancouver Island farmer frustrated over ‘nightmare’ of off-leash dogs near livestock

Violaine Mitchell loses three to five sheep every year to off-leash dogs

A Metchosin sheep farm is frustrated at the lack of understanding from dog owners using a private land trail that runs through the pasture where ewes and lambs are roaming.

Violaine Mitchell’s grandfather designated part of the Stillmeadow Farm as a permanent right of way for the people of Metchosin to enjoy — known as the Sea Bluff Trail — but in recent years off-leash dogs have become a “nightmare” for her livestock. Mitchell says she loses three to five sheep every year to loose dogs, and doesn’t want to see that happen again this year.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Baby sheep run ‘wild’ in Metchosin

“People’s pets may be wonderful at home, but when they see a lamb … all their instincts come into being,” she says.

Violaine Mitchell’s handwritten note asking dog owners to use a leash. (Provided by Violaine Mitchell)

Mitchell has signs on the trial but added a few more handwritten ones recently, asking dog owners to use leashes and has even gone so far as to provide twine for owners to use if they’re in need of a leash. She says that while 99 per cent of the trail users are respectful, in the past week she and her husband have had about five altercations with dog owners.

“And that’s only when we’ve been out there,” she says. “It’s really frustrating to see people willfully ignoring the signs and talking back.”

READ ALSO: Local sheep farmers face problem bear in Metchosin

Mitchell would hate to see the trail closed to the public — and even appreciates the help of those who have helped roll her sheep over when they’ve grown too much wool and have trouble getting up — but feels she needs to protect her animals.

“It’s difficult with people who haven’t grown up around farms or livestock. Dogs are wonderful and I love people walking around the farm but loose dogs are a no no,” she says.

Recently Violaine Mitchell was sent photos of a sign in Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island, which banned off-leash dogs from the area “due to ongoing interactions with farm livestock.” She says this may be the direction the Sea Bluff Trail needs to take. (Provided by Violaine Mitchell)

Recently Mitchell was sent some photos from a friend after they came across a sign in Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island, which banned off-leash dogs from the area “due to ongoing interactions with farm livestock.”

“That might be the direction we need to go in,” she says.

If the problem continues, Mitchell’s next step will be to sit down with the municipality to work out a plan that could include completely stopping anyone with a dog from walking on the trail.

“I don’t want to kick people off the legacy my grandfather left. My parents don’t, my husband doesn’t and neither do my kids — but how do we get more people to be aware rather than kicking them out because then everyone loses.”



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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