Earlier this year East Gippsland Shire Council appointed 12 people from across the region to a reference group to assist with council’s project to investigate options for declaring the majority of the shire off-leash for dogs.
Group members were selected following a public expression of interest process to ensure the group represented a range of:
- pet ownership statuses; and
- opinions about off-leash areas.
In Victoria, councils can make resolutions for on-leash, off-leash or prohibited areas for dogs. Currently, East Gippsland Shire Council has two declared off-leash areas. These are fenced areas with dog park facilities under construction. Council is looking to expand off-leash options across the shire.
The reference group met three times to work with council’s Community Laws team to provide input on determining the criteria for areas to be declared dogs on leash, off-leash or prohibited.
Group members then tested these ideas with their communities.
Acting General Manager Place and Community Aaron Hollow said council officers had done a lot of work to progress this project.
“We have looked at our region’s population and emerging demographic trends.
“We researched how other councils set parameters from urban, coastal and rural areas, pet owner education opportunities, and the importance of clear wording,” Mr Hollow said.
“It was also important for the reference group and council to compare the costs of animal management services and prosecutions from similar councils.
“This process allowed us to see what effect, if any, different parameters had on the council’s costs.”
With the work of the dog off-leash reference group complete, council staff will refine the parameters for off-leash, on-leash and prohibited areas.
A community engagement process will also contribute to the report prepared for Council to consider.
“It’s quite a large project with many factors to consider. Some places might be suitable off-leash areas in winter but not in summer when it is busier; other areas might be environmentally sensitive at certain times of year with nesting birds, for example.
“Ultimately, the aim of this work is to ensure East Gippsland is a dog-friendly region that meets the needs of people who do and don’t own dogs and the environment.
“I would like to thank the dog off-leash reference group for its work. A report will be presented to Council later this year for its consideration.