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Dogs, their owners and Dickson Wetlands

By Paul Costigan - 22 March 2017 22

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Dogs, their owners and Dickson Wetlands
Felix the Cat 7:02 am 23 Mar 17

ffisher said :

Same problem around Gunghalin and its suburbs; relentless chorus of dogs but even worse than that is walking around the parks Yerrabi, Crace is like walking around a sewer – every 100 paces is a pile of dog s–t and the owners stand there, watch and then walk away. The ACT govt goes on about getting rid of cats but what about the dogs which cause noise and pollution (which runs into the waterways and eventually we all drink it), harass birds and as they are rarely on leash you have put up with being rushed at and nearly pushed over while at the same time trying to get out of the way of maniac cyclists. And then there is the ultimate stupidity and cruelty of dogs in apartments, how absolutely awful for the animal.

I don’t own a cat or a dog.

I was wondering how long it would be before a connection to cyclists would be made…how dare they ride on the paths near the wetlands, don’t they know they belong on the roads…

ffisher 7:27 pm 22 Mar 17

Same problem around Gunghalin and its suburbs; relentless chorus of dogs but even worse than that is walking around the parks Yerrabi, Crace is like walking around a sewer – every 100 paces is a pile of dog s–t and the owners stand there, watch and then walk away. The ACT govt goes on about getting rid of cats but what about the dogs which cause noise and pollution (which runs into the waterways and eventually we all drink it), harass birds and as they are rarely on leash you have put up with being rushed at and nearly pushed over while at the same time trying to get out of the way of maniac cyclists. And then there is the ultimate stupidity and cruelty of dogs in apartments, how absolutely awful for the animal. I don’t own a cat or a dog.

TinyTank 2:50 pm 22 Mar 17

“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.”

If I can’t take my dog to the playground/supermarket/restaurant/Gallery, don’t bring your precious little children to a designated dog off-leash area! I’m pretty sick of telling children (and the occasional adult) not to rush at my dog trying to pet her while she’s happily walking around doing doggy things.

Canberra needs more dog off leash areas. Go and visit Yarralumla dog park on a Saturday and you’ll see 20 people and 30 dogs all running around on the dirt. There aren’t enough safe places that a responsible owner can take their well-mannered dog, thus more off-leash areas would be fantastic.

“give us back our wetland”

Ahh the old ‘us versus them’ argument. Given an increasing number of dog owners are visiting the wetlands with their dogs, is it possible that they outnumber the number of non-dog owners who may wish to visit? How did you decide that your opinion is in the best interests of the community and not just felt by you and a few people you’ve whinged to?

“it is far easier and safer than being constantly confronted by dogs and their dog owners”.
Dog owners are people too 😉

Ghettosmurf87 1:22 pm 22 Mar 17

I can’t help but see the similarities between the holier than thou protestations of dog-owners and the same vocal denials of those accused of NIMBYism…

Suzanne Kiraly 1:15 pm 22 Mar 17

Loved your article, Paul and especially: “Dog ownership is a lifestyle choice that should not affect the lives of other people and our natural environment.”

I would say the same about children. Dog owners are responsible for their dogs running amuck, just as are parents who allow their children to behave in a way that affects other people. My personal gripe about dog owners is with those who let their dogs loose and carry the leash in their hands, without a care as to their dog’s behaviour – I am with you. And by the way, I am a dog lover and I like children too! It’s about taking responsibility – short and simple.

msnk 1:09 pm 22 Mar 17

Paul Costigan said :

dogs having ‘fun’ chasing wildlife while their owners watch.

Pretty sure chasing other animals is what all animals do. Isn’t it the most natural thing? In the words of a very wise man ‘its all a part of the great circle of life’.

And thanks Holden. And I’m pretty sure most readers (of any article) don’t read past the first few lines.

Maya123 1:07 pm 22 Mar 17

LOL, your comments re denial bought back memories of a neighbour I used to have many years ago. The main problem with her elderly dog was that it often got out, and then would leave ‘presents’ on people’s front lawns. Plus on garbage day it would knock over garbage bins (this was in the days of smaller bins) and spread the rubbish about. Neighbours would look at each other as we spotted this dog. Some would make actions (such as slitting the neck) as to what they would like to do with that dog. (The dog was not aggressive.) When we were speaking to each other not pleasant comments were made about that dog. Then one day the dog went missing. The owner came to ask if I had seen it. I hadn’t and expressed hope that no one had done anything to it. The owner was shocked. “No-one would want to hurt….” I resisted saying what I was thinking, that the whole street would like to see that dog gone. Apparently the poo left on lawns, the garbage bins knocked over (witnessed) with the rubbish spread about, wasn’t her dogs fault. How could she have been so-unaware, except it was convenient for her to be. The dog turned up. It had wandered too far and been picked up by animal services. Best thing that ever happened, as it never was allowed to wander again.

Holden Caulfield 12:17 pm 22 Mar 17

Paul Costigan said :

and to stay on the subject – give us back our ‘wetland’.

To be fair yo msnk, you did write close to 600 words in your OP before you mentioned the wetlands.

Perhaps you could take your own advice and stay on subject.

msnk 12:17 pm 22 Mar 17

Alternatively, if dog owners were provided with an enclosed dog park in Dickson they would be less likely to bring the dogs to the wetland. I think most owners would always prefer an enclosed area where there is no risk to the dogs anyway. While there is no other option isn’t it better to share?

msnk 11:59 am 22 Mar 17

I understand the need for the wetland.

But if we are staying on the subject Paul, then why blame dog owners with ‘badly trained dogs’ or ‘dogs with menacing looks’ at all? What is the link between their behaviour and your apparent subject matter–the wetland? I assume that these dog owners did not ask for the wetland to be turned into a dog park.

If it is instead the fact that the dogs are running out of their dog parks, the solution is simple–build a fence.

Paul Costigan 11:32 am 22 Mar 17

and to stay on the subject – give us back our ‘wetland’.

It should not be nor was it designed to – a free-range dog park with no fencing and with dogs running free on to streets, other parklands and the bike path nearby – and with dogs having ‘fun’ chasing wildlife while their owners watch.

Paul Costigan 11:29 am 22 Mar 17

and again – this is not necessarily about the dogs; it is about the owners who do not control, train, and look after their dogs. So by all means adopt a dog – but look after it – for instance don’t leave it at home all day to be bored and to bark or howl or whatever.

msnk 11:05 am 22 Mar 17

Children are absolutely a lifestyle choice. It is in no way necessary for ‘humanity’ to reproduce. In fact for the sake of our planet, it is probably better not to. Adopt a dog that needs a home instead.

Paul Costigan 9:56 am 22 Mar 17

nope!

has happened – in fact the number of children in the street is increasing – no problem.

Always worries me when people defend dogs by linking noise of children with barking dogs. Dogs are a lifestyle choice. Children are part of our way of life – humanity.

msnk 9:24 am 22 Mar 17

Would you say the same if it were children crying on both sides of your house?

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