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Dogs in Public Places

Our community is made up of various size townships, busy roads, and many beautiful parks and recreation reserves.

How you share these different areas with your four legged family member depends on whether you are on the main street or a park, what facilities are available and whether any planned activities or sporting events are taking place at the same time.

Who makes the law for how dogs are kept in Victoria?

What are the main laws around keeping a dog that I need to know about?

I heard East Gippsland Shire has introduced new rules for off leash areas – what’s that look like and when is it happening?

Are there still places where I have to keep my dog on leash?

What does the term effective control actually mean, it keeps coming up?

What's on the table for the future - what options are there?

Do the new off leash rules apply to all parks and recreation reserves in East Gippsland?  

How do we know which parks and recreation reserves the new off leash rules apply to?  

Won't there be more dog attacks if we have dog off leash areas?

How many dog attacks have been happening with the law being on leash everywhere?  

What are the benefits to the community for having off leash areas?

What's happening around the state - what are other Councils doing?  

Do we even have enough dogs in East Gippsland to need off leash areas?

How do I provide feedback on the trial?

 

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Who makes the law for how dogs are kept in Victoria?

There are several laws both state and local for the way dogs interact in our community - the Domestic Animals Act 1994 (External link), which is a state law, is the main piece of legislation. It covers what dogs and cats can and can't do, from having to be registered with Council, being securely confined to your property, not allowed to rush at a person or attack another animal or person.

 

Under the Act, Council can nominate off leash, on leash or even prohibited areas for dogs and cats.

 

The Act is pretty heavy reading so we've included Dogs, Cats, Neighbours and You (External link), produced by the Victorian Law Foundation, which is a layman's terms translation of the Act in brochure format!

 

What are the main laws around keeping a dog that I need to know about?

Here are a few points you need to know;

It is against the law to let your dog wander on its own outside your property.

This means containing him or her by secure fencing and closed gates, having them on a chain, rope or in a kennel run which has sufficient space for them to still be able to move around enough and be comfortable with shade and water available.

Specific laws apply to dogs that are considered dangerous or menacing and dogs of restricted breeds. There are serious consequences for dogs that act aggressively. Dog attacks include dogs biting, rushing at or chasing a person or animal and depending on the severity and type of injuries sustained, your dog could be taken by Council whilst the investigation is conducted.

 

There's more information below on dogs in public places and new rules just brought in!

 

I heard East Gippsland Shire has introduced new rules for off leash areas – what’s that look like and when is it happening?

A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes this year, looking at introducing new rules for how dogs interact with the community.

 

At the Council Meeting held in Orbost on 12 November 2019, Council endorsed a new Order for a trial which allows dogs to be off leash in Council managed parks and recreation reserves as long as they are under effective control and you comply with a few conditions. The trial will come into effect on Tuesday 17 December 2019.

 

Basic rules are designed out of respect for other park users and include putting your dog back on a leash if you’re;

  • within 5m of a shared walking or bicycle track
  • within 20m of a playground or play equipment
  • within 20m of a barbeque or picnic area
  • within 20m of a waterway (if in a township area)
  • an organized event (including markets, sports and training sessions) is happening

A review will be conducted after six months to determine the effectiveness, value and compliance with the new rules and to make changes if required.

Here's a factsheet which explains the new dog leash rules for East Gippsland.

 

On leash on beaches shutterstock_1579812739.jpg

 

Are there still places where I have to keep my dog on leash?

Yes -  If you’re in a township area and the speed limit is 60km/hr or less you need to have your dog on leash and under effective control on all roads, footpaths, in shopping precincts and car parks.

 

Some small parks in township areas will remain on leash due to the requirements specific to playgrounds and barbeque areas.

 

At this stage all Council managed beaches and foreshores remain on leash as well, but this may change as we continue to review them for suitability over coming months. Beaches and foreshores not controlled by Council may have other rules apply to them. To see which beaches and foreshore areas the Council rules apply to, check out the factsheet for Dog Leash Rules for Beaches and Foreshores.

 

What does the term effective control actually mean, it keeps coming up?

Whether on leash or off leash a dog is required to be under effective control. A dog is deemed to be under effective control if the dog is under the control of someone capable of restraining it.

 

In an off leash area, the following also applies to the person in charge of the dog:

•           carry a chain, cord or leash sufficient to restrain the dog should it behave in a threatening manner; and

•           always remain within effective voice or hand control distance of the dog.

 

What's on the table for the future - what options are there?

So.....this is a six month trial, to see if these rules work well for both residents and visitors, dog owners and non-dog owners.

A thorough evaluation and review is going to be conducted and a report will go to Council at the end of the trial period which will help determine what the future looks like.

 

Perhaps the community is happy with this decision, for where in the shire is on leash, but maybe more options for letting dogs off the leash, including some areas where dogs can swim would be requested. We already have swimming spots high on the list of priorities to review, particularly beach and foreshore areas, as the rivers are now off leash outside of township areas.

 

What have you seen elsewhere that you think will work here....and why!

 

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Do the new off leash rules apply to all parks and recreation reserves in East Gippsland?

No – Council can only apply conditions of how dogs (and cats) are restrained in public places in an Order on council owned and/or managed land.

 

Some of the open spaces in the shire are owned and managed by Parks Victoria or the Department of Land, Environment, Water, Land and Planning on behalf of the Crown, and may have public Committees of Management who look after these spaces.

 

Under the National Parks Act 2013, dogs are prohibited in National Parks unless they are as an assistance dog, have a permit, or the National Park has an area set aside specifically for dogs.

Information on taking dogs into DELWP managed parks can be found here. State forests are all on leash for dogs.

 

Under the Domestic Animals Act 1994, Council requires agreement from land managers or owners to apply an Order on their land and at this stage, we don’t have that on any other land.

Some of these spaces would be great to include here, so we will continue to investigate throughout the trial, but they currently include;

  • Bruthen Recreation Reserve
  • Buchan Recreation Reserve
  • Cann River Hall & Recreation Reserve
  • Clifton Creek Hall & Recreation Reserve
  • East Gippsland Rail Trail Committee
  • Ensay Recreation Reserve
  • Glenaladale Recreation Reserve
  • Hinnomunjie Recreation Reserve
  • Lake Omeo Reserve
  • Lakes Entrance Recreation Reserve
  • Lindenow South Recreation Reserve
  • Sarsfield Recreation Reserve
  • Swifts Creek Recreation Reserve
  • Wulgulmerang Recreation Reserve

How do we know which parks and recreation reserves the new off leash rules apply to?

It’s not common knowledge who owns what land, particularly for visitors to the shire, so we’ve compiled a list!

 

Some small Council owned parks in township areas will remain on leash due to the requirements specific to playgrounds and barbeque areas, and they have been highlighted in this factsheet, Dog Leash Rules for Parks and Reserves.

 

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Won't there be more dog attacks if we have dog off leash areas?

The State Government through Animal Welfare Victoria, commission research for various animal related topics, funded by the Registration Levy Councils pay each year on registrations received from pet owners under the Domestic Animals Act 1994.

 

Findings on dog attacks have included;

  • all dogs can be territorial and most dog attacks in public occur on the footpath or road in front of the dog's property
  • confining dogs to their property could prevent 80% of dog attacks in public places.
  • you can be fined if your dog isn't securely confined, or if it rushes at or attacks a person or animal
  • your yard must have a closed gate, escape proof fencing, and visitors must have safe access to the front door.

Research shows that 80% of hospitalised dog attack victims are bitten in private homes by their own dog, or that of a friend or neighbour.

 

The number of hospitalized attack victims locally is unknown as victims will often not report a family or friend’s dog to Council.

 

How many dog attacks have been happening with the law being on leash everywhere?

In the last financial year, there were 61 dog attacks reported to Council - 61 too many.

 

The dogs were without their owner either wandering at large or not securely confined to their property in 75% of the attacks. That means that most of the dogs got out and attacked a passer-by or dog being walked right outside their property, or really close by!

 

That leaves 25% of the dog attacks reported where the owner was with their dog - its still too many, but you can see that the big issue is actually getting dog owners to make sure that their fences are in good shape and their gates can be closed.

 

There were 566 reports of dogs wandering at large and dog pick ups in the last financial year. Imagine if they all stayed home!! Many of them were unregistered too, because if they were registered, we could've taken them back home.

 

Out of the 474 dogs picked up last year, only 77 were registered and able to be dropped off home. That saved their owners over $500 in fines and pound fees!

 

When a dog is with their owner, the chances of them attacking is reduced, but don't forget they all have the propensity to bite and cause damage.

 

Active engagement of dog owners with their pets promotes responsible pet ownership, socialization and obedience, potentially reducing dog attacks in the community.

 

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What are the benefits to the community for having off leash areas?

Spending time with your dog often reduces the negative impact of bored, barking, digging, escaping, socially deprived nuisance dogs, increasing not only the health and wellbeing of dog owners, but also of non-dog owners in the community.

 

It also keeps our community fit and healthy, mentally and physically, interacting with others in the community. Visitors to the region will also be able to enjoy their four legged friend on the adventures and activities we promote.

 

A reduction in complaints to Council would mean more time for proactive activities and education to prevent wandering, the one thing we do know that is high on the risk scale for the cause of dog attacks and dog litter with noone to clean up after them!

 

What's happening around the state - what are other Councils doing?

There are 79 Councils in Victoria, 48 of them are rural or regional. 

Of the 48 Councils, 40 of them have an order or Local Law about how dogs interact in the community.  

All of the 31 metro Melbourne Councils have something in place, determining where dogs can be off leash, with on leash being the 'go to' in public places.

 

Do we even have enough dogs in East Gippsland to need off leash areas?

Interestingly, East Gippsland has a very big dog population.  

Nationally, dog ownership per household is at 38% - in some towns in East Gippsland we're looking at as high as 57% dog ownership!

 

Whether they are companions, family or work on the farm, we definitely love our dogs!!  

If you add to that the number of people who bring their dog or dogs with them on holiday….that adds another high number to our dog numbers over the peak season.

 

With the future demographic trend from the Australian Bureau of Statistics looking at an increase of over 30% in the population of retirement age residents by 2026, with such high ownership levels already, we think that now is a great time to review dogs in public places.

 

How do I provide feedback on the trial?

We're interested to hear from the community about your experiences, good and bad, throughout this trial.

 

Have we got the rules right? Do the distances work? What would work better?

How about the communication tools - are they easy to understand?

 

We understand that each community is individual and that some may have different requirements or have restrictions which prevent the new rules applying as intended - to allow open spaces to be shared.

 

Whilst we may consider more open space for fenced dog parks and opening up areas for water play in the future, the rules for the trial are shire-wide and may just need tweaking to suit some public spaces.

  

For further information, please contact East Gippsland Shire Council

Telephone: (03) 5153 9500

Email: feedback@egipps.vic.gov.au

 

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