Dog owners beware, Byron Council is cracking down on those who allow their fur friends to breach the rules, including fining those who don’t paw the line.
A majority of councillors voted for a ‘minimal tolerance approach’ to enforcing dog rules at last week’s meeting, during which a local wildlife advocate told them that the current system was ‘broken’.
Council officers will now impose fines, or at least a formal warning, on dog owners who ignore the regulations.
The motion was moved by Independent councillor, Cate Coorey and Mayor Michael Lyon, and reads, ‘Council shares the concern of many residents and visitors at the number of dogs in sensitive ecological areas, on public beaches and roaming and/or barking in residential areas’.
Biodiversity at risk
‘There is substantial evidence demonstrating that the presence of dogs has a negative impact on biodiversity.’
Particular emphasis will be placed on ‘nuisance, off-leash dogs and all dogs in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Belongil and Tallow estuaries and adjacent beaches and Broken Head beach adjacent to the Nature Reserve’.
There will also be a focus on enforcing the ‘no dogs’ policy in Wildlife Protection Zones, such as the ones in Hardy Avenue, Ocean Shores and at Lilli Pilli.
In addition, Council officers have been asked to put further enforcement priority and emphasis on off-leash dogs in towns and villages.
Earlier, Jeanette Olley from Byron Bird Buddies, said the current strategy for managing the 12,651 registered dogs in the Shire’s public spaces was broken.
A frustrated community
‘The community is frustrated with non-compliant dog owners and the frequent informal warnings aren’t working,’ Ms Olley said. ‘For the last financial year, there were 649 complaints – 101 were dog attacks, 123 were pound dogs, 410 were nuisance animal complaints, but only 57 fines were issued.
‘The statistics over time clearly show that the number of attacks and complaints are increasing in line with the decrease in penalty infringement notices.’
Ms Olley said that while in Suffolk Park recently she had seen ten dogs off lead, despite signs indicating that this was prohibited.
‘We spoke to several people, but one person in particular… was very abusive – the language was quite disgusting and frightening.’
Council has previously pursued an approach of informal warnings, education, and rewards for good behaviour as a way of encouraging dog owners to comply with the rules.
Council’s Manager of Public and Environmental Services, Sarah Nagel, told the chamber, ‘We’re not the police, we’re not here to punish people, we are here to educate people’.
Two councillors voted against the tougher approach: Independent Cr Sama Balson and Labor’s Asren Pugh.