Glenorchy City Council is nearing completion of public consultation on proposed changes to its Dog Management Policy, and is now calling on the community to have their final say, by Friday 28 January, before it goes before Council.
The review, which is conducted every five years, gives Council the opportunity to talk directly with the community about how its dog management practices could be improved to benefit both owners, their dogs, and the wider community.
The review has involved extensive consultation over a two-stage process.
Council initially formed a dedicated reference group to oversee the process, with members ranging from interested community members, local dog walking groups, through to representatives from the RPSCA and Australian Veterinary Association.
Submissions were sought from the public during August 2021, with a draft policy released for further consultation in December.
Glenorchy Mayor Bec Thomas has praised the consultation process and emphasised the importance of getting Council’s dog management practices correct.
“Glenorchy is a city of dog lovers, myself included. Our municipality is home to one of the highest number of registered dogs, so getting the right balance between the rights of dogs and their owners as well as the concerns of wider community, is critical” Mayor Thomas said.
“We’ve gone to great lengths to listen to the views of as many stakeholders as possible in developing our new policy. This isn’t a ‘tick and flick’ exercise and we genuinely sought to explore all issues around dog management, registration and restrictions to develop a policy that specifically meets our community’s needs.
“For example, our consultation has identified the need for a greyhound-specific dog park area as well as a dedicated area for dog training and while the policy won’t specifically establish these, Council has committed to investigate these options further – a position we would not necessarily be I if it weren’t for the input from such a diverse range of stakeholders.”
Another key issue that has arisen since the policy was last reviewed in 2017 has been around accessibility for assistance dogs, whether they should be subject to the same, or similar rules, as guide dogs and hearing dogs.
Currently, the Dog Control Act 2000 allows guide dogs (for vision impaired people) and hearing dogs (for hearing impaired people) to enter areas which are prohibited for all other dogs, including other types of assistance dogs.
The proposed changes to the Council’s policy go beyond what is contemplated in the legislation and would allow assistance dogs to access ‘Restricted Areas’ (which include various sports grounds and other Council land and recreation areas) in the same way as guide and hearing dogs.
As it stands however, Council is prevented by law from allowing the change to its policy to allow assistance dogs into ‘prohibited areas’ under the Act, as the Act only applies this exemption to guide and hearing dogs.
Mayor Thomas called for changes to be made to the Dog Control Act.
“There are many people vulnerable people in our community who rely on assistance dogs to help them with basic daily tasks such as going to the shops, running errands and seeking help” Mayor Thomas said.
“The current legislation is outdated and doesn’t reflect the importance of all support animals in giving vulnerable people independence and dignity to live as part of the community,” she said.
In August last year, the Local Government Association of Tasmania resolved to lobby the State Government on behalf of all Local Councils for the inclusion of assistance animals into the Act .
Mayor Thomas said Council would also be advocating for assistance dogs and their owners.
“In 2020, Glenorchy removed dog registration fees for assistance dogs in recognition of the vital support they provide to people with disabilities in our community.”
“We want to reflect that importance throughout our updated policy, but at the moment we can’t because the provisions in the State act prevent it,” she said.
“I will be writing to relevant Ministers and agencies and asking them to consider changing the Act as a matter of urgency, to improve safety and accessibility for vulnerable members of our community and their assistance dogs.”
The Tasmanian Government’s response to the Local Government Association’s motion around assistance dogs indicated the issue was under consideration at a national level, with a consistent approach to the accreditation and regulation of assistance animals across States and Territories being developed.
The response also noted that the national reform process was “in its early stages”, as of August last year.
Feedback from public consultation on Council’s revised policy is now being considered and the updated policy will be presented to Council in the first quarter of 2022.
More information about Council’s Dog Management Policy review process can be found on Council’s community engagement platform, Let’s Talk Glenorchy (www.letstalk.gcc.tas.gov.au)