Spiky grass at Richmond off-leash park injuring dogs

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A group of dog owners is appealing to the City of Richmond to mow down a large patch of grass at an off-leash park that’s injuring their pets.

The offending grass at the Dyke Trail Dog Park, at the foot of No. 3 Road, is apparently called foxtail barley or “spear grass,” a type of weed.

According to the dog owners, the grass’ tall stems have a kind of husk with small spikes that are embedding themselves in their pet’s paws and bellies.

Several of the pets have needed veterinary treatment, causing one such business, the Island Veterinary Hospital, to issue a warning on its website.

One of the owners, Jessy Bal, said a number of them have contacted, in vain, the city’s parks department to request the grass in question be cut more often.

“I went to the dog park (last week) and it look like about a third of the park has been mowed,” said Bal, who owns a three-year-old Yorkie called Jazzy.

“The part that actually was mowed was the side the bikes go on and we keep our dogs away from there.

“Recently, Jazzy’s behaviour has changed at the park. She won’t fetch her ball as the grass is so dry and tough on her belly and face.

“Many dogs have been injured by the spear grass which is growing all over the dog park.

“The spear grass is so dangerous that some dogs are having to go to the vet and are being sedated in order to remove the grass from their bodies.”

Bal said, however, that the dog park “is amazing, as it is one of the best…in Richmond.” 

After being contacted by the Richmond News, the city looked into the problem and identified the offending grass as “hordeum jubatum,” or foxtail barley.

City spokesperson Clay Adams said there is some of the wild grass weed at the site, but city staff “never knew it to be a particular problem for dogs.”

Adams said staff are going to take another look to see if it is in locations that “can be mowed down shorter and, hopefully, make it more visible for dogs and owners.”

Bal questioned why the grass in the park is not cut more often, as part of a regular schedule.

However, Adams said, as the park is part of the trail system, the grass in the area has a service level of being cut three times per year and had already been cut twice in 2019.