The STDOA is a not-for-profit organization. Volunteers including the executive receive no financial remuneration of any kind for their services.
- President – Joe Spencer
- Vice President – Dunja Elliott
- Secretary –
- Treasurer – Janet MacFarlane
Here is a bit of history as to who we are for those who might wonder how, all of a sudden in 2009, St. Thomas City Council approved an off-leash park. We are by no means the first people to try to get a dog park in St. Thomas. For ten years at least, people individually and in groups have attempted to do this, to no avail. But, due to those peoples’ efforts and a kind of serendipity, this time it came together with a group of determined and committed people and dogs. In 2007, a petition and information about a website calling for a dog park began circulating around town. Almost everywhere doggie people went – veterinary clinics, pet stores, pet groomers – there was a petition and slips of paper giving the website information. The petition could also be signed online. Well over 1000 people signed the petition, online and in paper form.
In the summer of 2008, a few people started gathering to let their dogs run free. More and more people and their dogs started meeting at a regular basis. Many friendships and connections were made within this group.
During these informal meets, as well as through advertising, a group of people got together to work towards making a dog park in the city a reality.
We met at coffee shops and at each others’ homes and brain-stormed on how to make this happen. Thus the St. Thomas/Elgin Dog Park Association was formed. Over the winter and spring, we lobbied City Council and received positive responses from Council and Parks & Recreation officials.
In the summer of 2009, City Council passed a motion to amend the by-law to allow an off-leash area for dogs and committed $15,000 toward the project. Parks & Rec developed a list of potential sites and our group assessed their suitability. All but one came to naught, either due to conflicting land use needs or physical problems with the sites. The site that was presented at a public meeting on August 20th at the Timken Centre was the site on Old Talbot Street. The members of the community in attendance approved it and later, at the September 12th meeting of City Council, so did all members of Council.
Meanwhile the now re-named St. Thomas Dog Park Association had been lobbying and fundraising for the park. Two of our members were at the St. Thomas Iron Horse Festival, at which time information regarding our plight came to the attention of a few executive members of the St. Thomas Lions Club. They said that they may be able to help us out.
Major fundraising occurred at the Fire Muster on Labour Day weekend in Pinafore Park. We sold t-shirts and hats with the Dog Park logo, home-made doggie biscuits, scarves and personalized engraved dog tags. We also raffled off several gift baskets and gift certificates from generous donors from the local area. We also had our signage donated for the event. The Dog Park Association held a silent auction which included an NHL hockey stick autographed by Joe Thornton. We raised over $1,200 in those two days…but we still had a ways to go to reach the expected $35,000 budget for this project.
The Lions Club let us know that they would support us; and on November 4th, 2009 they made a deputation before City Council at which time they announced they would match the City’s $15,000 contribution. This generous donation allowed the park to move forward in cash-strapped St. Thomas. In addition, the park signage is to be donated by a group member.
We have changed our name, we hope for the last time! We are now the St. Thomas Dog Owners Association. This allows us to liaise with the City as an umbrella organization concerned with dog parks as well as matters related to dogs.
We have developed an informal working relationship with All Breed Canine Rescue, the St. Thomas based group dedicated to saving and rehoming unwanted dogs. That relationship, like much about our group, evolved naturally. Many of our ‘dog park dogs’ were adopted from ABCR and several are foster dogs being cared for by our members until they find forever homes. We have dogs who came from the St. Thomas Animal Shelter, other rescue groups, from breeders and ones saved from puppy mills.
Dogs in our group include purebreds and mongrels, large and small. The variety of types and backgrounds of our dogs, and sharing our dogs’ stories, keeps us aware of issues of responsible dog ownership and dog care at societal and individual levels.