The sight of a dog happily frolicking in ocean waves or running as fast as its legs can carry it along the beach brings a smile to most.
But if you’re an exhausted migratory bird pausing for a rest en route to a far-flung place, or a chick waiting to hatch from an egg buried in the sand, those blissfully ignorant pooch paws are increasing your risk of death with every approaching step.
Ask any bird expert and they’ll tell you how delicate a bird’s heart can be; it doesn’t take much of a fright to literally scare them death.
But birds aren’t the only creatures at risk from dogs allowed to roam without restraint: other wildlife, pet dogs and humans sometimes find themselves either intimidated or under attack.
Irresponsible dog-walkers face fines of more than $300
Did you know a council ranger can fine you $330 for walking your dog off-leash in an on-leash area?
‘The fines increased earlier this year’, said Ballina Shire Council Manager Environmental and Public Health Kerri Watts.
Ms Watts said most issues with dog-owners and non-compliance happened in areas where dogs were supposed to be on-leash.
‘A lot of people choose to take the leash off and say ‘but my dog isn’t going to hurt anyone else’’, she said.
But Ms Watts said other people choosing to take their dogs to on-leash areas often want to socialise their dogs slowly and gently with the reassurance other dogs will also be on-leash.
The same fine applies to those with unregistered dogs; taking their dogs to areas where dogs are banned; with a dog on a leash in a public area but who still don’t have said dog under control; and to dog-owners who allow their dog to roam.
Remember, too: dogs aren’t allowed in or within 10 metres of any children’s play area.
Whether or not you can take your dog to a school, childcare centre or outdoor café depends on the people in charge of those places but dogs in cafes aren’t allowed to eat there, must stay on the ground and be on a leash.
Controlling your dog
All dogs in New South Wales public places must be on a lead unless the area is designated off-leash and must be accompanied by someone older than 16.
Legally, dogs must be under ‘effective control of a competent person by means of an adequate chain, cord or leash that is attached to the dog and that is being held by (or secured to) a person’.
The Companion Animals Management Regulation 2018 defines ‘effective control’ to mean ‘your dog responds to your command and remains close to you’.
Anyone out and about with a dog that isn’t trained well enough to stay under their effective control can be fined if the dog shows anti-social behaviour and/or aggression.
State regulations on dogs specify that even off-leash areas are not exclusively for dogs and owners are supposed to be considerate of other users.
From ‘excluded’ to ‘prohibited’: taking bans seriously
Last month the Tweed Shire Council officially changed the status of two public areas from ‘dog exclusion’ places to ‘dog prohibited zones’.
The two classifications seem to mean the same thing and in ordinary English, they pretty well do.
But in government bureaucratic language, the difference is that
‘exclusion’ is a council term without fines attached for enforcement whereas ‘prohibited zones’ are backed with state government-imposed fines.
The Tweed Shire Council says a recent Birdlife Australia study recommended dogs be banned at the mouths of estuaries.
The study showed estuaries were critically important foraging and nesting areas for shorebirds already under significant pressure from recreational activities and the recommendation to ban dogs was named as a priority for policy-makers.
Rare curlew hatched in dog-exclusion zone on Tweed
It seems such bans could have direct positive impacts for birdlife, if a recent example from the Tweed Shire Council is anything to go by.
The council says a Beach Stone-curlew pair managed to breed a chick at Hastings Point last year, at the Cudgera Creek estuary where dogs had been technically ‘excluded’ and are now officially banned.
‘This critically-endangered bird has rarely been recorded successfully breeding in the Tweed and this would not have been possible without the support of volunteers, the community and responsible dog owners,’ the council said in a press release.
The council has also made Ambrose Brown Park in Pottsville, including its foreshore area along Mooball Creek, a dog prohibited area.
So, if you’re a dog owner living in the Tweed, Byron or Ballina shires, where can you where can you legally let your furever friends off-leash?
Where Byron bitches (and male dogs) can chill
Information on the Byron Shire Council website says it is ‘embarking (woof!) on the development of a shire wide Dogs in Public Spaces Strategy’.
‘From requests for more off leash exercise areas to requests for action on noisy and uncontrolled dogs – it is clear our community wants a balanced approach to the management of dogs in our public spaces’, says the information.
The council says there’ll be plenty of opportunities for the community to ‘have their say’ throughout the process, but in the meantime, you can feel free to let your dog off-leash in the following eight places:
- Tallow Beach, Byron Bay
- Main Beach, Belongil
- Suffolk Park public reserve
- South Beach Road, Brunswick Heads
- New Brighton
- South Golden Beach
- Heritage Park, Mullumbimby
- Community Land, Bangalow
When asked about exclusion zones, the council said there were special conditions regarding pet ownership in several parts of the Byron Shire including Lilli Pilli, part of north Ocean Shores and various community title and multiple occupancy developments throughout the Shire.
Bow Wow in Ballina
Dogs in Ballina can be exercised off-leash in seven designated spots:
- BicentennialGardens(thenorthernareaonly), Ballina
- ComptonDrive, EastBallina
- GapRoad, Alstonville
- SevenMileBeach, northofLakeAinsworth, LennoxHead
- BallinaHeightsEstate, (easternreservearea), BallinaHeights
- HeadlandsDriveDrainageReserve, SkennarsHead
- TheSpit, Ballina
Dogs on the Tweed
There are ten parks and reserves on the Tweed available for dogs to run around off-leash plus four beach areas:
- Boyd Family Park, Tweed Heads West
- Frangela Drive Reserve, Murwillumbah
- River Street Park (from numbers 73 to 89 River Street, Murwillumbah)
- Corowa Park, Chinderah
- The riverbank reserve at the end of Old Ferry Road, Oxley Cove
- Bilambil Road Park, Terranora
- Amaroo Park, Banora Point
- Hibiscus and Oyster Point Park at the bottom of Bushland Drive, Banora Point
- Ducat Park, Tweed Heads
- South Fingal Head / Kingscliff Beach – access from Murphys Road Kingscliff to a point 0.5km south of the beach access point at the Fingal Head Quarry
- South Kingscliff Beach – from the boundary of Salt residential area north to the rockwall of Cudgen Creek
- South Cabarita Beach – 200m south of Norries Headland to a point one kilometre north of Cudgera Creek
- South Pottsville Beach – 200m south of the main bathing area at Pottsville Beach to 200m north of Black Rocks