Barking bylaws need more bite
All dogs should be banned from our beaches, says Tony Watkins
Taking a lead:
Sydney has banned dogs from many of its beaches.
In the past year some 814 ratepayers in Auckland City complained to the Council after being bitten by a dog. What did they get for taking the time and trouble? Not much. Not one of those people was notified when the Council decided to take a fresh look at the city Dog Bylaw.
In contrast every dog-owner who owned a dog which had bitten someone was notified, presumably so that they would be aware of the possibility of seeking greater opportunities for their dogs to bite more people.
The Council explained that it would have been too expensive to notify the victims, and so they decided to notify only the perpetrators of the injuries.
Leaving victims out of the democratic process may account for some of the anomalies we see in Auckland. World-class cities ban all dogs from all beaches at all times. World-class cities provide safe public places where you can exercise your grandmother.
Sydney, for example, presents a stark contrast to Auckland.
The Waverley City Council, in the Eastern suburbs, does not permit dogs at any time on any of their beaches, including of course the superb surf beaches of Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama.
The Randwick City Council says no dogs at all at any time on any of their Eastern beaches, such as Clovelly or Coogee. Their logic is that they have lots of tourists, and tourists do not like dogs.
The Woollahra City Council prohibits dogs on their harbour beaches such as Double Bay, Gap Beach, Watson’s Bay, Nielsen Park or Parsley Bay.
In the South the Rockdale City Council does not allow any dogs on any beaches. Any dog found on a beach is immediately confiscated.
In the far south the Sutherland Council does have three beaches where dogs are allowed at restricted times, but there is a total ban at weekends.
Manly City in the North does not allow dogs on either coastal beaches or harbour beaches at any time. There is one off-leash beach area at the dead end section of the tidal beach at Sandy Bay at Clontarf, but the residents are not happy about it.
The Warringah City Council does not allow any dogs on any of its beaches, from Harbour to Narrabeen.
The Pittwater Council does not permit any dogs on any of the surfing beaches north to Palm Beach. There is one small part of Roland Reserve, Bayswater on Pittwater where dogs are allowed.
Well out of the city, up Central Coast, the Gosford City Council does have some areas at the extreme ends of beaches where dogs are permitted.
The Newcastle City Council does not permit dogs on Newcastle Beach or the main part of Nobby’s beach, although beyond the Nobby breakwater dogs are permitted. Stockton Beach and all other beaches are dog-free.
It would be possible, but not necessary, to go on. If Auckland is going to be a vibrant world-class city we are going to need to ban all dogs from all beaches at all times.
We need to be able to swim safely, we need to be able to picnic in areas which have not been fouled by dogs, and we need to be able to welcome visitors from overseas without them feeling afraid.
The Auckland City Council does not have any data on dog-injury hospital admissions or people who are treated at accident and emergency clinics in the city. If nothing is going to be done about these unfortunate victims of our bylaws then probably there is indeed no reason to gather this information. In New Zealand as a whole there are around 100 dog-injury hospital admissions every year, and around 7000 people present to an accident and emergency clinic but are then discharged. With around half a million dogs in New Zealand people have every reason to be very afraid in any public place.
On roads we tend to be alert because there are many dangers, but on beaches we want to be able to relax knowing that we are safe. Training children to stand still when a dog rushes at them would seem to be a very poor substitute for having safe beaches where our children could simply run around and enjoy themselves.
Auckland will move up on the liveability index when all our beaches are once again dog free. Not too long ago our whole country was dog free. Kiwis felt safe enough to nest on the ground.
Tony Watkins is an urban designer, maritime planner, and a founding member of United Nations accredited International Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility.
Published in the New Zealand Herald 4 June 2008