A recent Spinoff column argued that Auckland’s dog laws are overly restrictive, and only set to get worse under proposed new bylaws. Nonsense, writes James Pasely.
Dogs and their activities should not be the hill we die on. Aucklanders have more important things to worry about – issues like traffic, housing, mental health all loom large but, alas, stories about pets and their possible limitations always garner attention.
As a fresh reporter at Stuff.co.nz between 2016 and 2018 I covered a fair few cat and dog stories. I also spent a lot of time reporting on Auckland Council and I can attest, despite what many would like to think, it’s by no means a nefarious organisation. They’re usually trying their best to make the city as good as it can be.
I can still remember sitting in, doodling in my notepad, not paying a hell of a lot of attention, when cat culling was raised to help with the city’s biodiversity. On first mention I didn’t perk up because at that point it was still a hypothetical. That is until the expert presenting, bless her soul, fearfully told the councillors while the media hadn’t yet latched onto the issue, when they did it would get nasty. I realised then I would have something for my editor.
Cat culling gets clicks. As do dog restrictions, apparently.
But all Auckland Council is looking to do at this point is extend an existing restriction at some parks and beaches by an extra month and the daily ban in those areas by two hours. Parks and beaches that allow dogs all year round will be unaffected. And it’s doing this so the entire region is consistent. Doesn’t sound so bad.
Now, it’s not just my concern Auckland Council might be getting a rough deal that prompted me to pitch this to The Spinoff. I recently moved to New York – a city that’s gone to the dogs. Everywhere you go they’re barking. Shitting and pissing. It’s relentless. The streets run brown, despite its infamous “pooper scooper” laws. Along with this you have to deal with raucous New Yorkers who, lacking our beloved New Zealand need to be stoic, constantly yell things like “oh ma god, that dog is so cute!” It’s chaos.
And honestly I don’t mind dogs. I walk one every day. But fear the floodgates. More lenience – as Julian Light argued for in his column Free the fur: Why it’s time for Auckland to loosen the leash on dog rules – will undoubtedly mean more dogs and more shit.
It’s a crisis the world over.
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In England in 2013, Bristol City Council put up billboards advertising children with faeces smeared across their face with the caption: “children will put anything in their mouth,” to fight the predicament. In Taiwan people (not even dog owners) were encouraged to find and bring in bagged dog shit to enter a lottery. In 2013 Brunete, a town near Madrid, even had volunteers delivering dog shit back to the owners. Closer to home, our own Palmerston North has been nicknamed “dog poo city,” by at least one dog owner.
More lenient rules for dogs will undoubtedly mean more of them. According to Julian Light, Auckland already has 100,000 dogs. New York, according to The Economist, has 600,000 but it feels like a hell of a lot more. And Auckland’s already dealing with a hefty waste problem. A $1.2 billion underground sewage tunnel is being built to deliver millions of cubic metres of sewage to a treatment plant every year. Can it handle more dog waste too?
Don’t let Auckland’s streets and beaches run brown.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.