Wollongong City Council’s plans to broaden its program of ‘‘surprise’’ inspections of off-leash dog areas throughout the region has ignited lively online debate.
The comments follow a motion, passed at last Monday’s council meeting, to carry out unscheduled inspections, including on weekends and long weekends, and not be limited to the hours of 9am to 5pm.
Council rangers already conduct random patrols of beaches and parks, however, the hours will now be extended.
The motion was introduced by Councillor Leigh Colacino who expressed concern that some dog owners were allowing their animals to run amok in off-leash areas.
The program of additional ‘‘surprise’’ inspections will begin within four weeks.
The motion included that the council establish a roll-out of pop-up information booths at off-leash areas to inform dog owners of their obligations, and that the booths not be limited to week days. The final part of the motion was that the council’s dogs on beaches policy be reviewed as soon as possible.
At the council meeting, 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.
The heat in the subject was evident in the numerous responses to the Mercury’s online story.
One reader wrote: ‘‘Seriously, if this keeps up, all our freedoms, as well as our four legged friends’ freedoms, will be taken from us. Every day bureaucrats pass more laws and impose regulations that overreach their authority, limit our freedom and restrict liberty.’’
However, others were supportive of more policing of dog owners accessing off-the-leash areas with their pets.
‘‘I disagree about dogs/dog owners doing the right thing at Coniston Beach. Whilst the majority might do the right thing, we have run into enough that don’t to not go there any more,’’ one mum wrote.
‘‘We don’t have a car and as this is the closest beach to our house, we thought it would make a nice location for a walk or for fishing. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the case. My small children have been scared by overly enthusiastic large dogs and my husband has attempted fishing there a couple of times but has had dogs get into his bait bucket and just make a general nuisance so he just doesn’t bother any more.’’
A council spokesman said that in the past three months, council rangers had issued 18 penalty infringement notices for dogs on beaches. The notices were for an owner having an uncontrolled dog or a dog in a prohibited place.
He said the rangers inspected beaches with dogs in both on and off-leash areas on a regular basis each week. Penalties for violating laws range from $165 to $1760.