Some good news for dog owner group

Liz Bell

A NEWLY-formed responsible dog owners group in Maffra has had some small wins, with Wellington Shire Council likely to amend a controversial bylaw that allows dogs off leash in town areas.

Currently, the bylaw allows dogs to be off leash in built-up areas, providing the dog owner is in ‘effective control’.

But it has long been a source of unease for dog owners and residents in other townships, with Loch Sport residents campaigning for years for the bylaw to be changed.

Interim chair of the Maffra Responsible Dog Owners Group (MRDOG), Christos Iliopoulos, said the bylaw was not being adequately adhered to, or enforced, and roaming dogs continued to present a risk to the community.

Mr Iliopoulos, who recently had a meeting with council officers over tighter dog controls, said while it was premature to shout ‘victory’ he was confident progress had been made.

“I attended a meeting at the Wellington Shire offices on [March 12] and it was indicated to me that the bylaw which now permits dogs to be off leash in built-up areas will most likely be amended at next year’s bylaws review,” he said.

“In which case, dogs will be required to be on leash in built-up areas unless otherwise permitted.”

An off-lead dog area at the Cameron Sporting Complex was also being considered, after a recent meeting with management committee chair Pat Weatherley, he said.

“The management committee there will be in touch with us to discuss how we can make that work,” he said

The group is calling for better dog control and more effective enforcement of bylaws, and will present a lengthy submission to Wellington Shire Council on April 7.

Among other things, they are asking that Wellington Shire Council develop a dog policy and plan for Maffra, including a dog owner’s licence scheme, provide doggy bags in public spaces, erect signs explaining dog behaviour protocols, and enforce “prompt and firm action” when stray dogs are reported.

In addition, the group wants all dog attacks to be reported to the police, not just the council ranger.

The group has suspended next month’s meeting until further notice, in line with current social distancing directives.