One of Canberra’s most popular areas for owners to let their dogs off the leash is under review.
The ACT Government claims Orana Bay in Yarralumla “poses a risk to pedestrians and cyclists” because some owners leave their dogs off-leash as they walk to and from nearby Yarralumla Dog Park.
Since Orana Bay was declared a dog exercise area in October 2019, nearby residents have also made complaints about dogs roaming into their properties and harassing wildlife.
There are 82,000 dogs currently registered in the ACT but only six areas where Canberrans can safely exercise their dogs in the water.
The review follows the ACT’s 10-year plan which ruled out dogs off-the-leash at all 39 nature reserves and placed their presence at all reserves under review.
The ACT Government said it was “committed to best practice in how we manage pets in our community” and would do what was best to ensure everyone in the community felt safe exploring Canberra.
The review will explore all options for the bay’s future use, including introducing time-share arrangements. Domestic Animal Services rangers will increase their patrols to ensure pet owners follow the rules.
For regular users of the area, Libby Oakes-Ash and her Maltese cross King Charles cavalier ‘Charlie’, the park is one of only a few nearby spaces to enjoy safe, off-leash exercise.
“He [Charlie] loves to swim, so it’s a great place to let him get really good exercise and access the water,” Libby said. “It’s easy to park and it’s safe, and there’s a nice big buffer of grass there so they’re not at risk of going on the road.
“I’ve never come across an unfriendly dog down there. They all just love the water. They’re swimming, playing with the balls and having a great old time.”
Libby said the area attracted a dozen or more dogs and their owners most afternoons.
She preferred the space over the enclosed Yarralumla Dog Park with its “bare, hot wasteland” conditions.
“I live in Kingsborough in Kingston and nearly all my friends have dogs. Not one of us would regularly take our dog to a dog park,” Libby said.
“Because this area [Orana Bay] is open, the dogs don’t seem to have any sense of ‘that’s their turf’. I’ve never had any problems there, all the dogs just seem to get along.”
She said there was no risk to pedestrians and cyclists as outlined in the ACT Government release because the dogs were usually fixated on the area near the water.
“I run a cycling group on Saturdays and ride through there all the time along that bike trail. I have never once, no matter how many dogs are at that beach, had one wander onto the path.
“There is a big grass buffer before you get to the little beach area and the water.
“That’s why it’s great for dogs because they might have a little run around on the grass occasionally. But most owners are there because their dogs like water, so the dogs are at the water.”
She described complaints by nearby residents about roaming dogs disturbing wildlife as “absolute garbage” and waned in comparison to the positive experiences of pets and their owners at the bay.
“Why shouldn’t my little dog be able to swim in the water?
“We live in a bush city. Surely there’s somewhere and some places where dogs and their owners can just have some fun.”
Libby said the area should be seen as one of opportunity rather than be placed under review.
A decision on the future of dogs at Orana Bay is expected in May.
Transport Canberra and City Services is holding a pop-up event to discuss the issue at Orana Bay from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm on Saturday, 26 February. For more information about exercising dogs in the ACT, visit the City Services website.