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30 July 2021, 05:00 PM
Council is reviewing how dogs are managed in public places within the Wangaratta township and its suburbs such as Yarrunga and Waldara. This is to provide members of the community, as well as dog owners and their dogs, with the ability to exercise in a safe and secure environment.
Council is proposing to designate off leash areas so dog owners may legally exercise their dogs off leash, and then to make all other public areas on-leash for dogs. Once community feedback has been received on the proposed off-leash areas, Council intends to make an order under the Domestic Animals Act to formalise these areas which will make it an offence to walk your dog off leash, unless the dog and owner are in a designated area.
Council is inviting community feedback on the proposed off-leash areas.
Maps of the proposed areas and associated information can be viewed below and at the Wangaratta Government Centre:
Map overview of all areas: Proposed-Dog-Off-Leash-Areas-Overview-All-Areas.pdf(PDF, 6MB)
Maps of individual areas:
Have your say
There are a number of ways to provide your feedback
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Off leash areas” in the subject line.
Mail: PO Box 238, Wangaratta VIC 3676. Please include “Off leash areas” as the reference.
In Person: Hand deliver to Customer Services, Wangaratta Government Centre – Corner Ford and Ovens Street, Wangaratta. Please include “Off leash areas” as the reference to your submission.
Any person may make a written submission regarding the proposed off-leash areas.
For any queries, please contact Council’s Community Compliance team on 03 5722 0888.
Consultation closes at 5.00pm on Friday 30 July 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Council trying to do?
Council is seeking to formalise the requirement that all dogs, when in public places, are on a leash, cord or chain for the safety of members of the public and their animals. To formalise this an Order will be made under the Domestic Animal Act 1994 which will set out designated areas where dog owners may legally exercise their dogs off leash with less likelihood other members of the public will be impacted by this.
Why is Council doing this?
As more and more residents engage in physical activity in public places (think running, exercise in the parks or walking their dogs), they are currently more likely to come into contact with unleashed dogs.
In most cases the interaction will be positive (they pat the dog and they both continue on their way) or neutral (there is no interaction with the dog). In an increasing number of occasions, the interaction is highly negative resulting in a person or dog being rushed or menaced by a dog which is off leash or, in some cases, being attacked by a dog. This can result in mental health issues or serious physical injuries to either a person or their animal and result in the off-leash dog owner receiving an infringement or being summonsed to attend court for the attack. They may be liable for medical or veterinary expenses.
It is these negative experiences that council is trying to minimise.
Who does this apply to?
The Order will apply to every person who wishes to exercise their dog on council owned or managed property within the Wangaratta township and its “suburbs”.
What localities does it apply to?
Council acknowledges that dogs are owned by many people living in many different locations in the municipality and that these dogs range from pets, breeding dogs and working dogs living in rural or remote areas.
The order will only apply to what shall be described as the township of Wangaratta and its “suburbs” (i.e. Waldara, Yarrunga, etc) and is not intended to apply to outlying towns, such as, but not limited to: Archerton, Bobinawarrah, Boorhaman, Boorhaman East, Boorhaman North, Boralma, Boweya, Bowmans Forest, Bowser, Byawatha, Carboor, Cheshunt, Cheshunt South, Docker, Dockers Plains, East Wangaratta, Edi, Edi Upper, Eldorado, Everton, Everton Upper, Glenrowan, Greta, Greta South, Greta West, Hansonville, Killawarra, King Valley, Laceby, Londrigan, Markwood, Meadow Creek, Milawa, Moyhu, Murmungee, Myrrhee, Oxley, Oxley Flats, Peechelba, Peechelba East, Rose River, Springhurst, Tarrawingee, Tolmie, Upper Lurg, Wabonga, Whitfield, Whitlands, Whorouly, Whorouly East and Whorouly South.
Even though the Order will not apply in these areas dog owners need to be aware that other offences exist should their dog be involved in an attack on a person, another animal (including dogs, cats and wildlife), as well as livestock. Persons attacked by a dog may seek to pursue the dog owner civilly for damages including vet bills, medical costs and the cost to replace livestock.
Why are dogs allowed to be off leash in some areas but not in other areas?
The impact of humans and their pets on the environment has come a long way. The Rural City of Wangaratta is aware of this and has attempted to consider the importance of the environment whilst also being cognisant of the needs of dog owners and their desire to exercise their dogs in public places.
What we now realise is that the environment in and around the municipality, particularly Wangaratta township, is home to many species of flora and fauna, some of which are listed as endangered. The list includes:
These species suffer greatly when domestic animals, in particular dogs enter a “high sensitivity” area. Some dogs, by nature are hunters and will follow a scent and “hunt” that scent to its source. This may result in the death of an animal or the destruction of its habitat. Dogs wandering away from its owner may defecate in an area where the droppings are not able to be picked up by the owner.
Considerations contributing to the decision-making process:
- Safety hazard for other users of the area, including Council staff.
- Killing, injuring and orphaning wildlife.
- Reproductive disruption to wildlife due to nest disturbance.
- Increased dog faeces left on the ground is a hazard for walkers and introduces pollutants to waterways.
- Potential disease transmission to native wildlife.
- Damage to regenerating and planted native vegetation.
- Potential to spread weeds.
Why are dogs not allowed off leash at the Northern Beaches?
Council acknowledges that dogs have been allowed to exercise off leash along the Northern Beaches however this was allowed long before the environment was considered as important to the community as it is today.
Studies reveal that the area is considered “highly sensitive” from an environmental view-point. This is due to the presence of native flora and fauna which are negatively impacted by the presence of domestic animals in the area. Weed spread, destruction of habitat including breeding grounds, transmission of diseases and the killing of native animals are some of the reasons for the restrictions on dogs being off leash.
As a concession council has decided to allow for dogs to be “water” exercised by allowing for dogs to swim in the river but to be placed on a leash, chain or cord immediately upon exiting the water. Council has also introduced other off leash areas to compensate for the removal of the Northern Beaches.
Can I exercise my dog off leash on one of the many sports grounds in the municipality?
Unless expressly stated you are not permitted to exercise your dog off leash on the surface of a sporting ground or oval. This is because some dog owners do not pick up their dog droppings resulting in a potentially horrible experience for a team member playing on the surface.
Cats have an impact on the environment by killing wildlife too. Why aren’t they included?
Council acknowledges that both domestic and feral cats have a huge impact on the environment, including the killing of endangered animal species, and intends to draft an order relating to cat control in 2022.
The primary need for this order directly relates to the safety of the community and their pets in public places.
By reducing the negative interaction (attacks and rushes) between unleashed dogs and the users of public spaces council is seeking to improve safety and increase the ability of members of our community to enjoy our public spaces.
What is a Section 26 Order?
A Section 26 Order relates to Section 26 of the Domestic Animals Act 1994 which empowers local councils to create an order setting out how council “controls” domestic dogs so as to minimise the potential negative impact on members of the public, when they are in public places.
The Order allows for Council Authorised Officers (Rangers) to enforce the requirement that all dogs be on a leash, cord or chain when in public places not designated as off leash areas. Penalties will apply for dogs found off leash in a public place and will increase in cost for repeat offenders.