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Council’s doggy moves provoke owner outrage

Aug 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

dog-mainjpgWELLINGTON City Council is under fire from dog owners with its latest raft of rules.

They are angry about  limitations on dog access to public places and the council’s plan to bring in a rule on neutering menacing dogs.

Highbury resident and dog owner Sue McRae says: “The council urgently needs a total rethink of its dog management policy.”
She believes the council’s policies treat dogs as though they should be “eradicated”.

Fellow dog owner and Roseneath resident Sue Cornforth agrees. “All the policies are quite draconian right now. I think [the council is] discouraging people from having dogs.”

dog-leftShe would like to see dogs on public transport, and better fencing in dog exercise areas.

Wellington blogger and dog owner Doug Wilkins writes: “The great cities of the world are pedestrian-friendly, and the world’s greatest pedestrians are dogs.

“If a city is dog-averse, it is losing the pathway to greatness.”

The council is attempting to add more exercise areas. But it hasn’t conceded to the 106 signatories to an e-petition demanding the Karori Cemetery (now on-leash) become an off-leash exercise before 9am and after 6pm.

“Dogs should be allowed to walk unleashed before 9am and after 6pm. This would be similar to those areas that allow dogs on beaches,” says Karori dog owner Susie Tocker.

The council’s latest move has been to seek public feedback on major changes to dog policy. Written submissions are being analysed and next month, people will be able to present oral submissions.

The changes include five new off-leash exercise areas and three new off-leash beach exercise areas to be used between midnight and 9am, as well as improved access for dogs and their owners to the Wellington waterfront and the central business district. 

New provisions for responsible dog owner status may be introduced, with more emphasis on owners paying their fees on time and being educated about animal welfare.

dog-alternative1New criteria will determine whether a menacing dog should be neutered, and whether it is a suitable solution.

Councillor Iona Pannett, a regulatory processes committee member, says exact wording is required. 

Neutering a dog is specified under the Dog Control Act as a proven method of deterring menacing behaviour.

But Sue Cornforth believes the council’s menacing dog policy already “punishes all dogs”.
“It’s a bit like ‘lock up all the criminals’ – it’s the same rational … Well, one or two dogs are bad so let’s lock them up at home. [It’s] home detention for dogs.”

Menacing dog behaviour is classified by breed or behaviour, such as attacking people or protected wildlife, domestic animals, stock or poultry, and threatening their  safety.

The council’s latest proposals include setting up council-run microchipping centres.

pannettMs Pannett says the microchipping service will help the council talk to people about issues they might be having with their dogs.

Ms Pannett says the council is well aware of the issues raised by Wellington dog owners, such as the need for adequate fencing in dog exercise areas and the issues surrounding Karori Cemetery.

She admits a number of dog exercise areas are not properly fenced, but adds that fencing all these areas is expensive.

She says she’s happy to discuss the issue further with dog owners, to see if they will consider paying more for registration or putting fencing up in community-funded groups.

Despite the negative feedback, the council feels that the current policy is working well, according to Ms Pannett.

“There aren’t as many submissions as last time, which indicates that people are happier this time.

“We have tried to balance the policy. The current policy talks a lot about control and regulation and we’ve tried to balance it with talking about … the benefits of dog ownership and trying to give dog owners more freedoms in the city.”

A final draft will go to a series of policy and strategy meetings in October, the outcome of which will be presented at the full council meeting.

A new policy will be adopted at the end of October.

PICTURES: (Top) Selkie gets attention from his owner, council critic Sue Cornforth.

(Above)  Iona Pannett: Prepared to talk to owners.

(Centre) It’s no go for dogs on certain Wellington beaches but Eva and owner Dominique Whittaker grab a moment of freedom.

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