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.
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.
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.