For a person standing on the open walkway on the fourth floor of the Jubilee House social housing complex at Richards and Helmcken streets, the fenced off-leash area of Emery Barnes Park is within spitting distance.
It’s the same with the open windows of Brooklyn Court, directly adjacent to the dog park, where on Wednesday morning as many as 10 dogs charged around the small fenced area. Soon a fight began with yelping, growling and barking.
According to Jubilee resident Ron Dobson, dog fights, barking dogs and what he said are aggressive owners are a constant in the park around the clock and are ruining the lives of the tenants in the social housing complexes. The majority of the tenants living in both buildings are disabled, elderly or both.
“Sometimes the barking is so bad I can’t eat and throw my dinner out,” said 65-year-old Dobson, whose small studio apartment overlooks the dog park. “It’s affecting my sleep and my health.”
Dobson said when he’s yelled down asking owners to quiet their dogs, he’s been greeted with threats, rude hand gestures and laughter.
He’s convinced the off-leash area was placed in that corner of the park so as not to annoy the wealthy condo owners living near the other end. He regularly complains to the city’s 311 call centre, the park board and Animal Control.
He’s also taken to calling Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Constance Barnes in the middle of the night when the barking is at its peak. Barnes is the daughter of late politician Emery Barnes, for whom the park is named.
“I’ve been getting calls at one and two in the morning and all I hear are dogs barking,” said Barnes. “I really feel for him. I’d be livid, too.”
Some of Dobson’s neighbours told her their health is being compromised by a lack of sleep, which prompted her to discuss the situation with park board staff.
“What are these people doing in this park at one and two in the morning when it closes at 10 [p.m.]?” said Barnes. “They shouldn’t be there.”
Barnes has staff looking at ways to improve or replace the gate latch as a way to reduce the noise. “I feel like I need to take ownership of Dad’s park when I can hear a dog barking relentlessly at 1 a.m.”
Brooklyn Court resident Ruby Bierce sat in her wheelchair under the shade of a tree in the park with a bag of dog treats, much to the delight of an orange ball of fur dancing at her feet.
“I love dogs,” she said. “But I never sleep anymore because of the noise.”
Bierce, who’s lived at Brooklyn Court since 1989, believes the dog park was placed next to the two building because the tenants are poor and disabled.
“It should have been down at the other end,” said Bierce. “But they placed it here where everyone’s on a fixed income.”
Barnes said that’s not the case. She added the park was built in stages over six years and was the last piece of property to be included.“It’s really just about density,” said Barnes. “Our main goal was to keep it away from the playground.”