Opinion | Recalcitrant dog owners and another fine mess

I USUALLY like the vast majority of dogs I encounter.

EXHIBIT A: This dog owner is doing the right thing. He's got responsibility in the bag.

EXHIBIT A: This dog owner is doing the right thing. He's got responsibility in the bag.

Social media pages dedicated to their capers are way more interesting than yet another bloody picture of tabouli “amazingly shaped just like Queensland if you open your imagination”.

Tonka the Concreter is a particular favourite. He’s a Melbourne based staffy with a penchant for personal protective equipment and an ability to pontificate on all things relevant to the wonderful world of concreting. Loves beer. Hates the jerkboss. Gets blamed for the sudden arrival of stink. Lives for weekends, hotted-up cars rods and cakes.

I think I’d like his owner. But generally, I’m not as keen on dog owners as I am on dogs. Because it’s the owners who choose not to comply with laws about dog behaviour.

Many do not give a rat’s. Their dog “won’t hurt you mate”, “is just a bit excited”, or “never does poos on the beach”.

There’s plenty of places you can go in the region to see dog owners ignoring requirements to both keep their dog on a leash and keep their dog out of a certain area.

One of the favourite spaces for disregarding these two rules at the same time is down past Merewether ocean baths where dozens of dog owners take their pooch off leash for a bit of free-range poo time.

And it’d be a brave soul who attempted to inform them that dogs are prohibited and that they need to get that dog on a leash.

One of the difficulties with rampant – and it is totally out-of-control at some beaches including Glenrock/Burwood and Redhead between first and second creeks – disregard for compliance is the issuing of infringement notices. Or rather the non-issuing of infringement notices.

While Glenrock and Burwood are the responsibility of NSW National Parks, the selected route of access is often through Merewether ocean baths where dogs are not allowed. Providing a ticket to a dog owner for having their dog off a leash or on the beach is nowhere near as easy as taking a picture of a car infringing a parking condition and popping a notice under a windscreen wiper.

Rangers seem to prefer to educate people rather than issue fines. Parking officers don’t bother educating those who park illegally, so why the softly-softly approach with recalcitrant dog-owners? Perhaps that can partly be attributed to infringement notices to dog owners requiring a face-to-face interaction at best or confrontation at worst.

Some dog-owners tell rangers to rack off or give phony names and it seems there’s little the ranger can do about it. Hence the problem.

Perhaps a machine is needed that simultaneously takes a picture of the dog and records a microchip that emits a signal – like those chips found in mobile phones – might be the answer. Send the infringement in the mail and avoid the confrontation. Tell the story to the magistrate if you don’t like the fine. Better still, comply with the responsibility of being a dog owner.

Newcastle City Council has undertaken public a survey gauging public opinion about dogs in open spaces. It’s an initiative that should will help guide strategy on an issue that can be extremely divisive.

One of the main problems regarding unleashed areas is that dog owners see that as permission to let Fido go totes free range without a real fear of copping a fine.

No fine. No care.

Twitter @paul_scott_

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