I respect the fact that there are some owners who’d rather not have their dogs mix with others but, on the whole, most people love to see their dogs running around, stretching their legs and socializing freely with other dogs. It’s fantastic exercise for the dogs, it provides mental stimulation and it teaches them to interact well with other dogs. Those people who frequent the likes of Dead Man’s Pass and Clonlea Park would attest to the fact that dog-walking is also a great way for the owners to get out and socialize! All in all, there are huge benefits for the community.
As Gawler residents, we’ve always been very lucky to have plenty of spaces where we can take our dogs for a walk in a relaxed environment and with dogs allowed to run ‘off-leash’. It would seem, however, that all of this is about to change, if Gawler Council has its way!
Those of you reading the local papers will know that council is ‘reviewing’ the regulations that dictate where owners can take their dogs for a run. Although council has stated that it is merely going through the exercise of ‘community consultation’, it would seem that much of the planning around this has already occurred and involves massively reducing the options for off-leash exercise.
This issue was discussed in ‘community consultation’ two years ago and the response was heavily weighted in favour of those who supported the status quo. In other words, very few people wanted to lose our off-leash dog areas. If you have a look at the Gawler council website, however, it would seem that council intends to ignore the views of the community. The maps contained on this webpage show that the vast majority of our parks are to be designated ‘on-leash’ areas, including Dead Man’s Pass and Clonlea Park.
I just had a long conversation with the council’s ‘Team Leader for Environment and Regulatory Services’. He’s the person with overall responsibility for the proposal to change most of Gawler’s park areas from off-leash to on-leash. He’s a very friendly person to speak to and assures me that dogs will still be able to run freely in the designated ‘dog parks’. When you dig down into this a bit more, however, you realise that these wonderful parks comprise of an area of roughly 30×40 metres for large dogs and a separate area for small dogs (apparently the two can’t mix). Not sure about your dogs but mine would barely get into a run before hitting the fence in a space that small!
From our point of view as vets, dogs are more likely to fight in a restricted dog-park than in a larger area where they feel less threatened. There is also a higher likelihood of passing on any transmissible disease where dogs are confined to a small fenced-off zone.
It was mentioned that most other councils have far less space than Gawler for dog-walking. To me, that seems like a fantastic advert for our town. Actually, I came across a family just yesterday who’d driven up from Adelaide with their two Border Collies, ‘Cooper’ and ‘Remi’, speficially to allow them a run in Dead Man’s Pass!The implication from council, however, seems to be that the example set by city councils should be an incentive for us to ‘down-size’ our parks. That beggars belief and, in my view at least, is an absolutely backward way of looking at things. Seriously, what happened to ‘Best of Town and Country’? If you’re a town planner that wants to introduce city measures, go and live/work in the city!
It was also mentioned that bike-riders have complained that they don’t feel safe riding through the parks because of dogs. I’m a bike-rider myself and appreciate what they’re saying but there are plenty other places you can go to ride your bike including a 50km designated bike track leading from Gawler to Angaston. If you don’t like riding your bike through a dog park, don’t go there in the first place!!
At Gawler Animal Hospital, we have many clients who regularly walk their dogs in our wonderful parks. They’re rightly horrified that they’re about to lose this luxury. We’re with them 100% on this and think that council needs to stop this insanity. I’m in the process of writing to council on the matter and I’d encourage all dog-owners to do the same. You have until 18th March to do so but please, if you share the views of the vast majority of Gawler dog-owners, make a submission to council and make your voice heard.