Dog owners at off-leash beaches in Wollongong could face stricter controls in the future.
Liberal councillor Leigh Colacino will put forward a motion at Monday’s Wollongong City Council meeting for a program of unscheduled inspections of off-leash areas throughout the Wollongong local government area.
Along with the inspections, which will be carried out on weekends as well as from Monday to Friday, Cr Colacino wants to see information booths set up to educate dog owners about their obligations.
Cr Colacino stressed that he wanted dogs and their owners to have access to beaches, but said some owners were not meeting the requirement to have their dogs under control at all times.
‘‘Some people are treating it like a creche for their dogs,’’ he said.
‘‘At some of the beaches you have people who come down and they park their dog and then they go and have a surf for two hours.
‘‘While they are doing that the dog is not under their control.
‘‘I want owners to be able to bring their dogs to the beach, but I also want people who don’t have dogs to be able to come to the beach and still have an enjoyable time.
‘‘They sometimes are feeling threatened by the dogs and little children are being knocked over by the dogs.
‘‘It is not a nice experience for the child and they may not want to go to the beach again because they associate it with being knocked over by a big dog that wanted to lick their face or maybe wasn’t so friendly.’’
Cr Colacino said other councils had closed their off-leash beaches as it was too hard to regulate and he didn’t want to see that happen in Wollongong.
‘‘Sutherland council set aside off-leash areas and then shut them down within a matter of months because it was just so hard to make sure people were doing the right thing.
‘‘I don’t want to get to a point where there is such a big community backlash that we say let’s stop off-leash areas for dogs.’’
Wollongong dog owner Amanda Melvaine, 18, said she regularly took her one-year-old red cattle dog Roja to the off-leash area at Puckeys Beach and hadn’t seen any problems there or at Little Austinmer Beach, which she also uses.
‘‘I’ve noticed that people who do take dogs to the beach usually have good control of them,’’ she said.
‘‘I haven’t had problems, although I’m sure there are owners who do.’’
Ms Melvaine said her previous dog wasn’t as well behaved as Roja.
‘‘My old dog liked to chase other dogs and she wasn’t nice to them,’’ she said.
‘‘I had to stop taking her to the beach.’’
Wollongong City Council was unable to provide information on the number of penalty infringement notices relating to dogs at off-leash beaches issued for the past year as it was still compiling the data.
A council spokesperson said rangers regularly inspected all beaches where there were designated areas for dogs on or off leash, sometimes up to twice a day.