New on-leash rule ‘confusing and expensive’

Members of Rodney Dog Friends take a walk on Manly Beach after successfully lobbying Council to keep the existing times when dogs are allowed on beaches and public parks.

A dog lobby group says that an expensive and confusing change to signs has taken the shine off Auckland Council’s decision to keep the existing times when dogs are allowed on beaches and public parks.

Hibiscus Coast dog owners breathed a sigh of relief after the 10am-5pm seasonal restriction was retained by unanimous vote in Council on July 25. The season when these restrictions apply was also reduced, by one month (December 1-March 1).

However,  members of lobby group Rodney Dog Friends, and local councillors, believe a change to the off-leash rule is not only expensive but confusing for dog owners and the public.

Previously, around 80 percent of Auckland had a default position where dogs could be off-leash and only had to be on-leash where it was signposted. Council’s decision on July 25 reversed this, so unless there are signs to the contrary, the default position is that dogs must now be on a leash.

Feedback to Hibiscus Matters indicates that many non-dog owners prefer this, saying they would like to see more dogs on leashes, particularly in public areas.

At the same time, the additional cost of hundreds of new signs, expected to be around $1 million, has gone down badly with the general public and dog owners alike.

In the Hibiscus & Bays Local Board area, there are only around a dozen parks that are on leash at all times, including Te Ara Tahuna/Orewa Estuary walk and cycleway. By contrast there are well over 200 that are off-leash. The new rule means that all those off-leash areas will need new signs.

It also means that any new parks created in developing subdivisions will be on-leash by default and changing that will require a time consuming and potentially expensive consultation process through the local board.

Rodney Dog Friends spokesperson Jill Parsons says most people expect signs to tell them when something is not allowed, or restricted.

“The change is likely to cause a lot of confusion,” she says. “If dog owners don’t see an on-leash sign, they may wrongly assume that off-leash is ok,” she says. “Getting it wrong could mean they get pulled up by animal control as well as causing confusion for the public.”

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