Each state has legislation that articulates requirements about the control of dogs in public places and associated dog owner and local government obligations. This is generally contained in various state Local Government Acts and more specifically in legislation that relates to the management of cats and dogs, such as the Domestic Animals Act (Vic), the Dog and Cat Management Act (SA), the Companion Animals Act (NSW), and the Animal Management (Cats and Dogs) Act (Qld).

Most states require councils to prepare a service or management plan that will guide council decision-making and service provision in relation to cats and dogs and their owners. Councils are generally required to address key animal management matters in these plans. Beyond these, it is generally up to individual councils to consider other matters relevant to their jurisdiction. Some councils now recognise the need to address animal/pet related issues that extend beyond the traditional considerations relating to compliance.

These councils are discussing and looking to address issues associated with the safety of pets in family violence situations and community education initiatives. Opportunities to develop programs that build on the benefits of pets are also increasingly entering ‘conversations’ in allied strategic planning documents such as Recreation and Open Space Strategies and  Public Health Plans. These programs recognise the physical health benefits associated with dog walking, the emotional health benefits associated with pet ownership, and social connection that occurs via the neighbourly exchange of pet care.

Issues and opportunities associated with pets will only be identified if planning for pets involves an integrated approach as does the planning for other service areas.

In relation to the planning of off-leash areas (including dog parks) the following is vitally important:

  • the involvement by all relevant departments to ensure all matters including local laws (compliance, PR); recreation and open space management (PR, active lifestyle, dog club partnerships) and maintenance (cleaning/rubbish removal, renewal); risk management (safety), family and children’s services (safety)
  • a solid policy rationale that addresses the why, what, where and how in terms of both fenced and unfenced provision
  • consistency, as best as possible, with the provision and design rational for other types of open space such as play spaces or sports fields – particularly in terms of universal access, safety, level of provision and amenity
  • a well-planned and resourced community education and information strategy to ensure dog owners understand their obligations, particularly in terms of dog control and general courtesy to other members of the community
  • appropriate resourcing of compliance monitoring and public relations initiatives.

In addition, council’s provision policy for off-leash areas needs to consider:

  • the space available to provide an adequate buffer between other parkland activities and off-leash areas
  • strategies to manage dog activity at the interface of off-leash areas and on-leash such as, sensitive environmental areas, walking and bicycle trails, BBQ and picnic areas, and play spaces
  • strategies to ensure dog owners abide by their obligations in terms of control of dogs and are considerate of other dogs and people.
  • not fencing, fencing or partially fencing off-leash an area. * It is not good policy to create a fenced off-leash area purely because the public wants one. There are significant implications associated with fencing and off-leash area particularly in terms of unintentional  ‘messaging’ about dog owner responsibilities, and increased risk associated with dog attacks and rushes because of the enclosed, confined area.
  • use of sports fields.

Local Government Practitioner Survey

We are conducting a survey of local government practitioners that are involved in the following:

  • off-leash area planning and policy
  • planning, design and management of dog parks
  • maintenance of off-leash areas and dog parks
LG Practitioner Survey

The purpose of the survey is to:

  • collect and share (on a permission basis) information about trends in off-leash policy and provision in Australia
  • identify innovations in the sector
  • identify successful strategies for addressing the challenges associate with off-leash areas/activities
  • identify the information and educational needs of practitioners/the sector
LG Practitioner Survey