Put a leash on your dog or be collared, Government warns

Ian Bushnell 16 July 2019 33

New laws have come into force requiring dogs to be on a lead unless in designated areas. Photos: George Tsotsos.

New City Services Minister Chris Steel has marked out the territory for the ACT’s dog owners, adding some bite to the Government’s bark – keep your animal on a lead or you will face the wrath of the Territory’s new flying squad and incur on-the-spot fines.

Part of the Government’s response to dog attacks in the Territory, new laws have come into force designating off and on-lead areas supported by a six-strong enforcement team, public education programs and a makeover of the city’s seven popular off-lead dog parks.

The new laws state that:

  • Unless otherwise identified on the new dog exercise maps, all public areas are dog on-lead, including street verges and footpaths
  • 10 metres either side of footpaths and cycle paths are dog on-lead areas
  • Dogs continue to be banned within 10 metres of playgrounds and barbecues when in use
  • Sportsgrounds will be off-lead except during formal sporting events
  • Lakes and ponds, unless otherwise signposted, will be dog on-lead areas.

Mr Steel said the changes restrict off-lead areas to certain parks, dog parks and ovals where no sport is taking place and were about improving public safety.

“For all other areas there is a very clear message – keep your dog on a lead, it’s the law,” he said. “We have an enforcement team that is now out on the beat targeting off-lead dogs and there are penalties that apply for people who are doing the wrong thing.”

Penalties range from on-the-spot fines of $50 to court-ordered fines of $2400 for failure to effectively control an animal.

He said the changes had been designed so that people could feel safe walking, riding or taking young children on shared paths, open space areas and foreshore areas, while still ensuring significant off-leash areas were available, within around 800 metres in most areas, for dog owners who had effective control of their dog.

City Services Minister Chris Steel at Yarralumla Dog Park: his message is clear.

Mr Steel said the new dog strategy was part of a broader suite of changes under the Canberra Dog Model, including bite prevention programs in early childhood centres, and a pet census to get a better understanding of how many dogs and cats there are in the ACT so resources can be better deployed.

The education program aimed at children and new parents would start in the next school term to teach young families the skills they needed to be safe around dogs, which was proven to reduce dog bites.

“The restrictions make a lot of sense, if you’re on a footpath or street you shouldn’t be harassed by an off-lead dog. It doesn’t matter how friendly it is, some people are put off by dogs, and we want to encourage children to know how to approach dogs,” Mr Steel said.

He said the Government wanted to encourage dog owners to exercise their dogs responsibly and part of that was a $200,000 refurbishment of the off-lead dog parks, including re-seeding grass and making them more accessible.

A $200,000 refurbishment of the off-lead dog parks is meant to encourage exercise for dogs.

In the summer, the Government will be reviewing areas where dogs can swim in the city’s lakes so water retrievers and other dogs can ‘take a dip’.

Asked if tougher measures might be needed if the number of dog attacks did not fall, Mr Steel said the Government’s strategy would be constantly reviewed and adjusted.

The new designated dog exercise area maps are available here.


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33 Responses to Put a leash on your dog or be collared, Government warns
gjay gjay 12:41 am 08 Jun 20

My little boy was chased by off-leash dogs twice and was pinned down to the ground last time. He is now terrified of riding his scooter around Lake Burley Griffen. I beg dog owners to keep their dogs on-lead or take your dogs to off-leash parks. In my walks, I see at least 5 dogs off leash between 5am-7am around Lake Burley Griffen, attacking other dogs that are on leash and I feel unsafe walking. I once confronted a dog owner to please have her dog on-lead and she shouted at me that she “WILL NOT”. This is really about creating a safe public space for dogs and people to enjoy. Please be kind and considerate, thank you!

Silvana Bisa Silvana Bisa 2:59 pm 17 Aug 19

Every day at Orana Bay in Yarralumla 6 to 10 dogs off leach barking and running on the cycle path , near accident ever day have not seen a dog inspector yet please come and see for yourself, as the weather is getting warmer there will be up to 30 dogs of leach , please do something about it .

Christine Jones Christine Jones 4:59 pm 20 Jul 19

Too little too late

Bundy Bear Bundy Bear 5:54 am 20 Jul 19

Put a leash on the owners would be a far better solution

BigDave BigDave 8:06 am 18 Jul 19

This is a shame as its one of life’s pleasures to wander along with your dog allowed to roam and sniff. No doubt its aimed at the feral dogs not properly secured, but it will be good dog owners that pay any fines.

Nikkie Harper Nikkie Harper 7:53 pm 17 Jul 19

I saw at least 4 dogs being walked off leash today on footpaths.

msgrumpy msgrumpy 6:21 pm 17 Jul 19

One of my leashed dogs was attacked and almost killed by an escaped dog a few years ago. 3 1/2 hours in surgery, 2 nights at the emergency vet ‘icu’ and $6,000 later I still had my darling. So I applaud the idea behind this but wonder how it is going to be enforced? I’ve had a heated discussion only a week ago with an owner out walking his dog off leash who charged me and my leashed dogs but how is such a person fined? And what about the wandering husky that some delivery drivers warned me about the other day causing me to backtrack on my walk? How is that owner meant to be found and fined? Am I meant to film all my walks ‘just in case’? I’d hate for this to be just another placebo law that the government has introduced like picking up after your dogs – has anyone ever been fined for breaching that law? Fingers crossed but I don’t hold out any great hope that this law will be able to be enforced.

Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 5:41 pm 17 Jul 19

Not nearly enough space dedicated to off-leash . If there were more then compliance would be so much more likely. Doesn't mean every street would have stray dogs but would mean you wouldn't have to load your dogs into the car to allow them to stretch their legs.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 6:54 am 18 Jul 19

    I've seen dogs off leash adjacent to off-leash areas. No harm in walking your dogs on leash. I do agree that there should be more off leash areas.

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 7:05 am 18 Jul 19

    Margaret Welsh we've dogs that want to run. And explore. It's joyful to watch and a large backyard or leash just isn't the same. I'm sort of surprised that there's been no discussion about what the dogs need or deserve.

    Louise Flood Louise Flood 7:42 am 20 Jul 19

    Cathy Dearnley I completely agree. I am fortunate to have a long off leash area very close and my dogs just love to run and sniff happily. That said I wish more dogs were socialised so off leash was more normal . I watch other dogs and he owners even in

    Off leash areas and call my dogs back to me if either look nervous.

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 8:34 am 20 Jul 19

    Louise Flood our dogs aren't great off leash when together as they start acting like a pack. So easy access would mean we could take them one or two at a time without so much fuss

Sara Andrews Sara Andrews 4:41 pm 17 Jul 19

There’s nothing wrong with nice dogs walking off lead, we shouldn’t all be penalised because there are some irresponsible owners out there. Particularly if there isn’t a dog park close to where you live. The money should be used for 6 new positions in an emergency department instead.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 6:57 am 18 Jul 19

    Even nice dogs off leash can get spooked or ignore their owners and run in front of traffic. It's irresponsible of dog owners to have their dogs off-leash for the dogs' sake as well as the public's.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 8:10 am 18 Jul 19

    Nonsense Margaret. The dog owners that walk their dogs off leash in designated areas are more likely the ones that train their dogs properly. Dogs that can only be controlled by putting a lead on them are more of a worry than those who've been trained proper recall and off leash manners, IMO.

    It should be made mandatory to adequately train your dogs.

    Sara Andrews Sara Andrews 8:25 am 18 Jul 19

    Lin Van Oevelen I completely agree. Having a lead on a dog does not prevent dog attacks. It’s irresponsible owners not training their dogs adequately and not using muzzles in public when they know their dog may be prone to anxiety or aggression.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 8:07 pm 18 Jul 19

    I used to obedience train dogs, so don’t make assumptions. Even the best trained dogs slip up occasionally. There have been too many incidents and I’m sick of people and dogs wearing the consequences.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 9:07 pm 18 Jul 19

    And that's why we need suitable off leash areas, Margaret.

    But the only ones left in my neighborhood now are crawling with kangaroos. And while I can recall both my dogs from kangaroos in most situations, things do get iffy if they virtually bump into one. I know my dogs and I know exactly what their limits are.

    Which is why I walked them in an off leash park with no connection to green corridors on weekdays. The park is now no longer off leash. My dogs need to run. They'd get depressed otherwise. It is ludicrous to say that all dogs can be happy being walked on lead always. Even more so with backyards shrinking, but a backyard is never a replacement for exploration and full speed sprints.

    Louise Flood Louise Flood 7:53 am 20 Jul 19

    Lin Van Oevelen completely agree with your comments. Where I used to live there was an off leash area where as many as 30 dogs and owners met each day and no issues. The dogs had so much fun. Greeted all dogs and people happily and shared toys and competed for balls without aggression. Here in Canberra dogs seem to be generally demonised and the more they we on leash the more they become defensive and terrolitorial IME. I don’t like enclosed dog areas because it is often the people who can’t or won’t train and control their dogs who go there. The only attacks my dogs have experienced is in an enclosed place.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 8:41 am 20 Jul 19

    Complain, Louise. I've heard others tell similar stories about parks that had been meeting places for dog owners for years now being on leash only. You need to let the government know.

    My dogs aren't much info socialising with other dogs (they'll just ignore them when we do meet any) but the park where I walk is barely used by anyone else at all (I go there every day and often at different times of the day, so I know), so me walking my dogs there literally inconveniences no one.

    Maybe they could even consider a time share, like they have on some beaches? That would work for me because most of the time I walk mine early in the morning.

Jen Brown Jen Brown 3:24 pm 17 Jul 19

Where is this "new dog exercise maps" they refer to?

    Jen Brown Jen Brown 3:26 pm 17 Jul 19

    Nevermind, found it on the Access Canberra website.

Harold Brown Harold Brown 1:17 pm 17 Jul 19

ACT gov would have been better off spending the money on 6-strong team to address youth mental health and suicide... or any other actual issue.

    Margaret Welsh Margaret Welsh 6:59 am 18 Jul 19

    You know, I have a friend who had to have three operations and got major infections because of a dog attack. A woman died in Canberra last year because of a dog attack (although I agree that it wasn't off leash and it was in her own home). Most dogs are lovely, but some aren't. I see a lot of dogs wandering free and some of them put themselves at risk as well as others. Other states have these laws and most people in those states obey them.

Rowan Hurrell Rowan Hurrell 12:27 pm 17 Jul 19

So what happens at fadden pines where you have a dog off leash area with bbqs and playground in the middle...

Bec Cesnik Bec Cesnik 11:43 am 17 Jul 19

Terrible law stating dogs can't be at sporting grounds, even if they are on a lead. Great way to stop people going to watch local and amateur sport! Completely agree with dogs having to be on a lead, but this is going too far.

    Travis Cragg Travis Cragg 11:57 am 17 Jul 19

    Bec, could you please highlight where anything says that dogs can't be at sporting grounds on leads? I couldn't see it in the article.

    Bec Cesnik Bec Cesnik 11:59 am 17 Jul 19

    Travis Cragg not specific mentioned in this article but see pic below

Deanna Laenen Deanna Laenen 11:41 am 17 Jul 19

Thank goodness. I’ve moved down from Brisbane where I very rarely saw dogs being walked off lead, to here where they are everywhere. And it tends to bother my dog when I’m walking her (on-leash).

Patrick J Pentony Patrick J Pentony 10:54 am 17 Jul 19

Everyday I see dogs off leash, I doubt this 6 member team will enforce the new rules. I think the government should publish the amount of fines issues each month

Brendan Bruce Brendan Bruce 10:42 am 17 Jul 19

Fiona Reid Lewis Haskew more fame for Winston

Benkin Manfish Benkin Manfish 10:15 am 17 Jul 19

Would be nice if the government took a slightly more nuanced approach to shared usage.

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 10:05 am 17 Jul 19

For a start there are often dogs off the leash at the back of the Canberra Centre, and on the upper reaches of Ainslie Ave.

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