Aucklanders will have the opportunity to have their say on proposed changes to dog rules from 1 April.
Auckland Council recently completed a review of its policy on dogs and related bylaws so that improvements can be made to the way dogs are managed across the region.
On Thursday, the council’s Governing Body approved the proposed changes to go out for public consultation.
Chair of the Regulatory Committee, Councillor Linda Cooper, emphasises that no changes have yet taken effect.
“No changes have or will be made until we hear from Aucklanders about what they think of the proposal. We’ll then look at all the feedback we receive before an amended bylaw is expected to be in place in late 2019.
“The main aim of the proposed changes is to better communicate existing rules to the public, see more consistency across the region, as well as improving dog management in Auckland.”
“We encourage all Aucklanders; dog-owners and non-dog owners alike to let us know what they think when the consultation opens in April.”
Public consultation will open on 1 April until 10 May 2019. Aucklanders will be able to provide feedback online, at one of our libraries, or at one of the Have your Say events held across the region.
A final decision on amendments will then be made by the Governing Body following feedback from the community consultation period.
What are the key proposed changes?
Time and season rules
Time and season rules are used in popular places, during busy periods to avoid conflict between dogs and other users.
The decision to apply a time and season rule to a park or beach is made by local boards and is only applied to these specific areas.
The proposed changes standardise the time and season definition to make it easier for the public to know when and where they can take their dogs.
Currently, the policy has a definition of ‘time and season’ that is 10am–5pm from Labour Weekend until 1 March.
In the last five years, 13 local boards have been granted exemptions to this, meaning we now have 17 different time and season definitions being used across the region. This is a clear indication that the current definition is not fit for purpose.
The proposed new definition of 10am-7pm is for areas that already have the time and season rule. This would be in place from the Saturday of Labour Weekend to the 31 March.
This definition more closely reflects the current situation in most local board areas. About half the local boards already use this definition, while many others are either to 6pm or 6.30pm. Hibiscus and Bays Local Board is the only board that currently uses the original policy of 10am–5pm.
The alternative to having a regionally consistent time and season definition would be to have a default definition in the Policy and enable local boards to introduce variations to this in their areas. Aucklanders will also be asked their views on this option during the consultation.
Multiple dog ownership
We want to have a regionally consistent approach for dog owners to obtain a Multiple Dog Ownership License. Currently, some local boards require a licence for more than one dog, while other local board areas require a licence for more than two dogs. We want to standardise the approach so that anyone living in an urban residential area would need a license to own more than two dogs.
This will also create an opportunity for our staff to work with dog owners to ensure that their property is best suited to transitioning to owning more than two dogs.
If a dog has been classified as menacing due to bad behaviour, we are proposing that if the dog undertakes an obedience course and does not have any further infringements in a 12-month period, then the owner can request the council to reassess their classification. While not a guarantee, it aims to incentivise responsible dog ownership.
Currently, if a dog is found to be not under control more than once in a year, their owner must get them neutered due to the risk of indiscriminate breeding. Feedback from Animal Management has been that it is difficult to enforce this. We are limited in what we can do under the law, as the Dog Control Act does not allow officers to neuter dogs that have been seized.
We are proposing clarifying these rules as part of the review to raise awareness with owners who do not comply with the neutering requirement that they could be fined.
There are no proposed changes to local dog access rules (where dogs are allowed under control on leash, off leash or prohibited areas and designated dog exercise areas). Local dog access rules are determined by local boards.
The only access rules that have been specifically reviewed as part of this process are those in regional parks. Dog access rules in regional parks have not been changed since Auckland Council was formed in 2010 so it made sense to also review these rules now. Regional parks rangers, biodiversity staff, mana whenua and local boards have provided advice on required changes.
The statement of proposal includes recommendations for dog access rule changes in the following four regional parks:
- Glenfern Sanctuary
- Muriwai Regional Park
- Long Bay Regional Park
- Waitakere Regional Park - Whatipu
Communicate dog access rules better
Another proposed change is to the way that other access rule information is presented so that it is clear and consistent across the region.
We know dog owners want to know where they can take the dogs, so what we are proposing to do is reformat the way that dog access info is presented. This would mean listing all the areas where owners can take their dog off-leash rather than where they can’t.
This isn’t about changing the status of areas, just the way we present information so that it is easy to understand. Future decisions about the type of access rules that apply at local parks and beaches will continue to be made by local boards.
Extension to protect fauna
The current policy and bylaw allow temporary changes to be made to dog access rules for the protection of vulnerable wildlife. This is an important lever to ensure that the council can adapt to Auckland’s changing natural environment and habitats.
It is now proposed that this should be extended to the protection of flora. This would allow for flexible changes to access rules to protect against concerns that threaten Auckland’s environment, such as kauri dieback disease.