Designating more outdoor boarded hockey rinks as seasonal off-leash areas is not a suitable solution for a city that needs more off-leash areas. Hockey rinks can be a small part of the solution, but they do not make great places for off-leash play for dogs.
Many neighbourhoods have boarded outdoor hockey rinks, so letting dog owners use them from spring to fall seems like a simple, low-cost solution to creating more off-leash areas. However, when considered more closely, it becomes apparent that this is not a suitable solution.
For one thing, there are only 23 boarded rinks in Regina (according to what is listed on the City of Regina website), and many are inappropriate because of play structures nearby or because the rinks are on school property and cannot be used during school hours. Even if there were as many as a dozen suitable boarded rinks in Regina, it would still not be nearly enough to serve dog owners in Regina. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.
A boarded hockey rink is adequate for a quick 5 minute romp or some ball tossing, but not for much else unless the dogs there are well-suited to each other for play (e.g. size, play style, social skills). A rink is certainly not big enough for a large dog or a breed that needs to run. As well, the crusher-dust type substrate in many rinks is hard on a dog’s footpads and will cause cuts/abrasions if the dog spends too much time running on it or making sharp turns and skidding stops.
The inside of a hockey rink is not a mentally stimulating environment and this leads to problems. Unless a dog is meeting dog friends there for play, after a dog has sniffed the interesting spots, done some “business”, and left some pee-mail, a dog will generally stand around (along with their humans who are standing around in the barren hockey rink). A similar thing happens with children in an empty, boring playground or in a room without toys. It’s not hard to visualize the problems that will occur when dogs (often with mismatched play styles) are enclosed in a small, boring space and then forced to interact by owners who want them to play or get tired out.
Dog owners deserve a sufficient number of locations with sufficient space to allow their dogs to run off leash. These locations should be safe and pleasant for the dogs and the humans. An empty hockey rink can be useful but a empty hockey rink is not a “park” as some may suggest.
Links referencing hockey rinks as dog parks:
City is inconsistent in terminology, sometimes using “off-leash area” and sometimes using “dog park”. Seasonal off-leash areas (hockey rinks) are listed under the headings “Dog Parks” in the text and on a map.