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Dogs, their owners and Dickson Wetlands

By Paul Costigan 22 March 2017 22


This post will probably upset a few dog owners. Unfortunately, that is also part of the story – being that whenever you raise the problems you have with dogs, many dog owners (not all) go into denial.

It has happened to me just recently. Apparently, it was the other neighbours’ dogs that do all the barking – not his. I had to work hard to stop myself from laughing.

But first, let’s begin with another story. Friends had made their way out of the USA thinking they should get out of that country while they could. It was no longer the country they recognised. We did warn them that there would be strict vetting if they tried to entry Australia – but that’s another story for another time.

It was during our lunch that our friends commented on the constant barking from neighbourhood dogs – being dogs on both sides of us. Yes, we agreed, the noise was a nuisance. But what do you do?


We then shared stories about our separate but fruitless efforts at several times of our different lives in two separate countries to deal with the problems of neighbourhood barking dogs. One thing was a stand out as a common thread, the owners in all cases went into denial, in some cases they got aggressive, and often they canvass other dog owners nearby to back their denial.

Remarkably it is not just non-dog owners who get the aggressive treatment when you point out the bad behaviour of your neighbour’s dog(s). I have friends, being owners of very nicely behaved (and trained) canines, who have also experienced the trauma of being abused because they have complained about another dog.

Australia has a high number of dogs: From the RSPCA:

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. About 63% of Australian households own pets. There are an estimated more than 25 million pets in Australia. Dogs are the most common pet, with 39% of households owning a dog. There are estimated to be 4.2 million pet dogs in Australia; 19 dogs for every 100 people.

The above statistics can be backed up by observing the aisle space in supermarkets that it devoted to dog food and the growing number of specialists stores for dog things.

As for my local area, I think the dog ownership would be closer to 50%. As one person who moved into the area recently said – ‘you have a hell of a number of dogs in Dickson’. I am not sure why I was responsible but I agreed to the basis of the comment. Dickson is alive with dogs.

The story continues. Barking dogs in the neighbourhood is just one aspect of having dog-ownership now taken for granted as being ‘normal’ in Australia. Then there is the case of our wonderful wetlands here in Dickson.

When it was opened the neighbourhood could not believe our luck. Instead of a parkland that had been completely neglected with no maintenance at all – it had been miraculously worked over to become this fabulous wetland. (It is actually an engineering work to capture water for the nearby ovals).

Dickson now had a place where loads of people went to enjoy the peace, the open space, to meander and to observe the increasing wildlife that immediately took the opportunity to move in. Apparently very late or very early, kangaroos often show up to enjoy the fresh grass and water. And yes –there’s also a fox – or two.

But all this has changed following a strange decision by someone to allow the wetlands (a place for animals and plants) to be designated as a space for dogs to be off leash.


So we now have a large free-range dog park with no fencing around it into which people from all over the place hop into their cars and drive over to bring their dogs and let them loose. And they do. Some people simply open the car doors and let them go.


They walk and talk amongst themselves, talk on the phone – and completely ignore the fact that their dogs are running everywhere, annoying others, chasing the birds and ducks, and depositing their crap in the bushes.

This is now a fully contested space for bird life. Birds soon learn whether to inhabit an area or not – especially as is witnessed often, the dogs off leash chase after any wildlife that happens to venture onto the open spaces. And what do the owners do? Nothing – usually they are too busy talking on the phone.

Several times we have been confronted by not very friendly dogs or even dogs that rush at you suddenly. Sometimes, those dogs are huge – and I mean huge! I have been bitten once.

Twice last year I witnessed parents grabbing small children and holding them up as large animals prowled nearby with menacing looks towards the child in question. This will no doubt lead to something more serious one day soon. I hope the bureaucracy is ready for the insurance claim.

Many of us now walk through the wetlands at certain times of the day with great hesitation. Most the of time we walk other parts of the neighbourhood as it is far easier and safer than being constantly confronted by dogs and their dog owners.

To make matters worse, there are people who then wander off onto the bike path or nearby streets with dogs still off leash. It is often the case that dogs off leash are taken onto the nearby sports fields and allowed to run about while others are engaged in sporting activities. There are multiple problems caused by that very questionable decision by some bureaucrat somewhere in the system.

Anecdotally, several of us have observed that the high number of family groups and the number of children and older persons using the wetlands has reduced – for very good reasons. This is very obvious around the now infamous ‘dog hours’– being early morning and evening.

It should be a wetland – not a free-range dog park. If there is to be a dog park in Dickson – then good – put it somewhere else and build the required barriers around it.

Dear department of whatever you are called – please establish a proper dog park somewhere else in Dickson – and give us back our wetland.

As to the neighbours who deny their dogs bark – I do wonder just how the human brain works that such denials are made so vehemently. The world of ‘alternative facts’ is well and truly alive and active among particular dog owners.

I know about the ACT Government process for complaining about dogs – but really – this should not have to be the solution. I know past ACT Government Ministers who speak of the high number of hours spent dealing with dog complaints. Surely we have better things to do than to deal with such matters.

I know there are people out there with well-behaved dogs who cause no problems and whose dogs provide heaps of pleasure for their owners and others.

But it seems that the subliminal message from government and others is that we non-dog owners need to get used to dogs and their dubious and at times dangerous behaviour.

I disagree.

And I do not blame the dogs – it is the thoughtless owners, and bureaucrats who need to be dealt with.

Dog ownership is a lifestyle choice that should not affect the lives of other people and our natural environment.

Again I ask – please return the Dickson Wetlands to be – “a wetlands”.

Be great to share stories from others who have experienced all this and more.

NOTE: No dogs were harmed in the writing of this post – and the dog-actor in my photos was paid appropriate penalty rates.

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22 Responses to
Dogs, their owners and Dickson Wetlands
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Holden Caulfield 1:39 pm 27 Mar 17

BowditchPitch said :

It’s hard to consider the author’s view as reasonable, because he seems irrationally anti-dog.

And as for dogs barking, they are allowed to, within reason. A bit of tolerance wouldn’t go astray. Silence in the suburbs is not a realistic goal. At my house, the cockatoos and kookaburras are louder and more insistent than the dog, but no one complains about them.

It’s hard to consider the respondent’s view as reasonable, because she seems irrationally pro-dog.

That, and you quite possibly support the OP’s claim that many dog owners are blissfully unaware of any negative aspects their dogs may provide to neighbours etc.

However, you are right, in that a bit of tolerance wouldn’t go astray. But that’s a general comment that could apply to almost any scenario.

Perhaps we need tolerance off-leash areas to encourage the free roaming of tolerance and kindness.

TinyTank 12:04 pm 27 Mar 17

In response to wtc-
Let me help you understand. Quite a lot of ACT residents pay taxes- stamp duty, vehicle registration, income tax etc. When the Federal/ACT government collects your tax, the money is then distributed to various programs, and in the case of the Federal gov, to the States and Territories. Money is then spent according to the requests and in the best interests of the community.

Now, a small part of the funds are spent on skate parks, but I don’t own or have any interest in riding a skate board. So why does the government have to provide areas for skateboarders to ride? Skateboarders should build their own skate park or use existing concrete pavement or better yet- take up walking! Nobody forced them into this hobby, they chose to ride a skateboard. (/sarcasm)

You obviously don’t know a lot about dogs. The larger the dog, the less exercise they tend to need. I did my research and specifically chose a breed of very large dog who is happy with either a daily outing or just once or twice per week, so long as she has some company and a few ‘jobs’ to do each day. My backyard is sufficiently big enough for her to live a good life, but dogs are social animals and I want her to live a great life!

I agree that dogs shouldn’t be allowed on sporting fields and that there are plenty of terrible dog owners out there. Until people take more accountability for their actions (or inactions), restrictions, such as no dogs on sporting fields, should be in place. Why do I agree with you on this point? Because it doesn’t affect me. I don’t own a ‘working dog’ in suburbia who needs AT LEAST an hour per day of ball chasing in order to stop them from going nuts. Again, it goes to personal accountability.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say that for a lot of people, “human relaxation” involves canine company. Just this weekend I spent 3 glorious days with my dog in the Snowy Mountains (at a pet friendly lodge not in the National Park). It was absolute bliss.

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