Dogs may roam in own parks

Miniature Goldendoodle playing fetch in an open park. Yarrawonga’s dogs may soon have their own park to run around freely off the leash after the Dog Off Leash Area Policy was adopted by Moira Shire Council. Photo by Kathy Krinke

Off leash dog parks could be fashioned around Yarrawonga after a recommendation to adopt a Dog Off-Leash Area Policy was passed at Moira Shire Councils ordinary April meeting.

In recent years there has been growing interest in fenced dog parks and other off-leash areas locally as they provide a great way for both owners and their dogs to exercise and socialise whilst also reducing both social isolation for people and nuisance behaviours such as barking and wandering in pets.

In 2021 Moira Shire Council conducted a survey of residents, ratepayers and visitors and found that 94% of a total of 329 responses supported the provision of fully fenced off-leash dog parks in Moira Shire.

The survey also asked a number of questions about what should be taken into consideration when looking at the location and design of off-leash areas. This information was used to draft the Dog Off-leash Area Policy that will guide the provision and development of Dog Off-Leash Areas in Moira Shire.

The draft policy was placed on public exhibition earlier this year with more than two thirds of respondents supporting off leash areas as well as containing suggestions around possible locations.

However, the location, design and use of OLA’s (off leash areas) has the potential to create negative sentiment.

Councillor Ed Cox moved the motion and supported the recommendation but reiterated that provisions need to be in place for safety.

“Once again communities have changed but we need some controlled area so people know their dogs will be safe as well as the owners,” Cr Cox said.

Cr John Beitzel seconded the motion and said this would be a great thing for the communities of Moira, but it would have to be done in a safe manner.

“Ninety four percent of people that were surveyed were positive about the idea,” Cr Beitzel said.

“It is something that is needed in the community but something we need to manage carefully as we go forward.”

Cr Peter Lawless also spoke on the motion saying: “we have to have policies in place in regard to these schemes, but it was great to hear that most respondents did not want us to fence off existing parks.”

A section of the Dog Off Leash Area Policy states that council aim to, over time, provide Dog OLA's in towns across Moira Shire based on the number of dog registrations, demand and suitable sites as well as continue to allow dogs off -leash at Dog OLA's as per council's current Domestic Animals Act Section 26 Order and for confined OLA's where space allows, provide separate areas for sedate and active dogs.

The policy also states when determining the location of a new Dog Off-Leash Area, the following should be taken into consideration:

•The space should be large enough to allow dogs sufficient space to exercise. Where practicable the minimum size for a Dog Off-Leash Area should be 0.2 hectares (2000m*) with separate areas for sedate and active dogs in Confined OLA's.

•There should be appropriate buffers between the Dog Off-Leash Area and other activities within the open space and nearby houses.

•Priority given to areas close to concentrations of registered dog ownership,

•Minimise proximity to residential houses and schools,

•Where appropriate utilise linear-shaped open space to promote physical exercise by encouraging people to walk around the space.

•In general, Dog Off-Leash Areas will be excluded from Designated Conservation Reserves and areas of significant environmental value.

•Dog Off-Leash Areas will not be located within; 20 metres of a playground or barbeque area, 50 metres of any main or collector road (Open OLA only).

Existing assets could also reduce the total cost of implementation and influence patronage of a Dog Off-Leash Area, and they will be taken into account when determining a suitable site.

Assets that influence the location of a Dog O/-Leash Area include, in order of importance: available space, supply of drinking water and related fixtures, natural and constructed shade areas, seating, landscape features that facilitate play/agility, proximity to public toilets, car parking, path network to park, path network within off-leash area.