Irresponsible dog owners who fail to abide by off-leash laws will face heightened scrutiny after Wollongong City Council moved to begin a new program of surprise inspections.
The motion, introduced at Monday’s council meeting by Liberal Councillor Leigh Colacino, aimed to put a muzzle on owners who used off-leash areas to let their animals run amok.
Councillor Chris Connor was among the most vocal in support of the motion, and said there was potential scope for a full ban on dog off-leash areas in the Wollongong local government area.
‘‘If you want to go and poop on a beach, go to Shellharbour, don’t do it here,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve owned a dog for many years, I don’t own one at the moment, but I believe our beaches are no location for dogs.
‘‘We have a lot of irresponsible people who don’t do the right thing.’’
Rangers will randomly patrol beaches during weekdays and weekends, and ‘‘pop-up’’ information booths will be established at off-leash areas to help owners understand their obligations.
The passionate discussion on the motion lasted longer than an hour, and several councillors said they supported tighter controls because of the risk that uncontrolled dogs posed to children.
Cr George Takacs described an incident where he ended up in hospital after an off-leash dog bowled him over as he was riding his bike.
He said the doctor who had treated him said an average of one bike rider a week was injured because of loose dogs.
However, a Wollongong Hospital spokeswoman said there had been no ‘‘recent spike in dog-related incidents’’.
Likewise, a NSW ambulance spokesman said there was no evidence to suggest injuries from incidents involving dogs had increased.
On average, Illawarra paramedics were treating a dog bite every six months, he said.
The motion was passed with an amendment calling for a new dogs-on-beaches policy to be adopted ‘‘as soon as possible’’. Council staff said this could be done as early as next month.
Four of the 11 councillors present opposed the motion, including Greens councillor Jill Merrin.
She said she didn’t believe it was up to councillors to ‘‘micromanage’’ how rangers went about their duties.
‘‘I wasn’t happy with that without having to go through the proper review process to find out what is effective and what isn’t,’’ she said.
Council rangers already conduct random patrols of Wollongong beaches, however, it is understood the hours during which these are undertaken will now be extended.
Penalties for dog owners found violating laws range from $165 to $1760.