DOG OWNERS have expressed their concerns about the availability of off leash areas under the Baw Baw Shire’s proposed dogs on leash policy.
Pictured: Baw Baw councillors and directors. Photo by author.
The policy would require owners to keep their dogs on a leash or chain up to two metres long while in public spaces except for signed off leash areas.
In a special meeting to hear submissions on a number of proposed local law amendments last Wednesday dog owners told the council the policy was largely directed at the wrong people.
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Dr Andrea Reupert told councillors she had researched the issue and found no convincing connection between dogs being off leash and dog attacks and urged the council delay making its decision.
“Having a dog on leash doesn’t stop them from fighting,” Dr Reupert said.
“I could find no research that leashing dogs could [stop] attacks. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, but there is no evidence.”
Dr Reupert said most attacks happen on streets near the dog owner’s property.
“I do walk our dog off the leash at Brooker and Civic Park, but I have been also attacked by dogs twice. I really understand the emotion attached to this,” she said
“Don’t make a decision, I don’t think you can because there’s no local evidence.”
Dr Reupert said council officers had told her information on dog bites in the region was “not easy to retrieve or accessible to public.”
Kerryn Riddington of Warragul said few dog attacks happened in public and argued problem dogs were often completely unsupervised, often after being released from houses neighbouring parks.
“I would like to report the incidents but I’m afraid the statistics would be used against dog owners,” Ms Riddington said.
“Off leash should not mean uncontrolled… I carry a leash at all times.
“A dog benefits mentally and physically from being allowed to run off leash.”
Warragul resident Chris Buckingham said the policy needed to be better thought out.
“This is a complex issue. It is not going to be fixed though a sweeping legislation or by-law,” Mr Buckingham said.
“We’re not looking at what makes a community a fair and reasonable place to live. I ask council to go away and think more deeply about this before creating an [ineffective] law.
“We don’t punish the best drivers on the road for the actions of a few [bad ones], so why should we do [the same] with dog owners?”
Dog owner Olive Lyon suggested a fenced Scenic Park would be appropriate but Civic Park was too busy for dogs to safely let off leash at all times.
“It is not good to see dogs charging after balls heading toward families and toddlers,” Ms Lyon said.
“I currently own a dog chosen to suit my age, walking capacity… and garden.”
“Despite 18 months at dog club he still doesn’t know the word come. I know what and who my dog is, which cannot be said for some dog owners.
“I’m quite prepared to not bring my dog to Civic Park, which I do once a week.”
But many speakers at the meeting expressed support for Warragul’s Brooker Park as an off leash area, saying it would not need to be fenced.
Concerns community not properly consulted
One speaker said she was concerned the community had not been made aware of the council’s intention to introduce the policy.
“A big issue that I found was.. when speaking to members of the community there aren’t many people who are aware,” the speaker said.
“I did my own survey [of 10 people] and asked people if they knew there was an issue. None knew.”
She said advertising in the Baw Baw Buzz was hard to find.
“I just cannot believe a decision could be made on this subject without consulting the community.”
Other speakers also expressed concern about how the law had been publicised.
North ward councillor Deb Brown was not present at the meeting.
Click here to see the full proposed amendments document.
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