Dogs face beach ban

PAWS FOR THOUGHT: Bellarine Peninsula trainer Kate Robinson has welcomed dog bans on Ocean Grove''s main beach.

By Justin Flynn

Dogs could be permanently banned from Ocean Grove main beach if a proposed change from Barwon Coast Committee of Management (BCCM) is successful.

The ban is just one of several suggested changes affecting beaches from Breamlea to Collendina.

The proposed changes will go to the community for feedback before a final decision is made.

Four key changes have been recommended:

Establishing longer ‘seasonal’ zones (beaches 16W-20W, 21W-24W, 24W-27W and 34W-36W), allowing dogs on-leash at certain times of the day during certain periods of the year;

Banning dogs from the Ocean Grove main beach between 13W–16W, with an off-beach ‘walkthrough’ pathway;

13th Beach between 36W–40W is proposed to be a ‘horse zone’ where dogs are required to be on-leash at all times; and

The number of dog control orders would be reduced.

Barwon Coast CEO Gary McPike said there had been an increase in complaints about uncontrolled dogs off-leash on our beaches.

“As a first step in determining what the community required for equitable beach access, we contracted Federation University in 2018 to conduct a study into a number of coastal management issues, including dogs on beaches. Over 1700 community members contributed to this report,” he said.

“We believe the proposed changes will result in many benefits including, for the first time, answering a significant community call for a dog-free area on Ocean Grove beach.

“Rules and signage will be simplified across the coast and where horses currently access 13th Beach, this area will be designated a horse zone with dogs allowed on lead to create a safe beach experience”.

“No final decisions have been made about where dogs can be walked and what areas are potentially set aside as exclusion zones. We’ll be supporting the City’s consultation and engaging with our community through this, to ensure we get this right.

“We’re not looking to stop the local community walking their dogs on the beach. I know this is a wonderful pastime and a great part of living by the coast. The proposed regulations still allow for the majority of the Barwon Coast beach areas for dog activities”.

Kate Robinson from Pawtastic Paws Dog Training said she supported the proposal to have a dog-free beach, providing there was adequate space set aside for dog owners to exercise their animals.

“Given the busy nature of the Ocean Grove main beach, we think it is appropriate to have a dog-free zone so families feel comfortable in using this space,” she said.

“However, there also needs to be adequate space for people to exercise their dogs at the beach.

“This includes maintaining access to the current ‘dog beach’ in Ocean Grove and access to along 13th Beach.

“Adequate signage from the beach and access points is a must to ensure that all users understand where the different zones start and end.

“We also feel that council could better support and fund the rangers to ensure proper policing of the areas particularly at peak times.”

Ms Robinson said there measures dog owners could take to ensure harmony at our beaches.

“Overall, the community’s culture around off leash areas is what makes or breaks these zones as a safe and happy space to take dogs,” she said.

Ms Robinson’s ‘top tips’ for the zones to be successful are:

– ensuring your dog has had adequate training so you can maintain effective control in a highly distracting environment such as the beach. This includes being able to recall away from other people and dogs;

– engaging and playing with your dog to make yourself more fun than the other distractions at the beach;

– watching and understanding the body language of your dog and other dogs to ensure all parties are comfortable with the interactions. This includes understanding that even if your dog is ‘friendly’, the other dog may not be comfortable with your dog’s social style and may not want to play;

– picking up after your dog to ensure the next person can enjoy the space as much as you have;

– respecting the different zones to allow those who may want to walk with their dogs on lead or who don’t want to interact with dogs can enjoy the beach too.

The BCCM findings revealed dogs off the leash were the main issue affecting beach users’ enjoyment; and owners’ controlling their dogs and access to beach areas were the major management challenges.

The dog-free zone has been suggested due to a high number of reported incidents in the area, including 27 dog attacks in the first six months of 2019.

BCCM received 164 reports of noncompliance for dog rules on beaches for the first half of this year – 134 were for incidents for off-leash dogs in on-leash zones.

The City-led public feedback process will run for six weeks from 14 October and will involve four drop-in sessions in Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads.

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