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AucklandApril 27, 2019

Free the fur: Why it’s time for Auckland to loosen the leash on dog rules

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With Auckland’s local body elections coming up in October, now is the time for Aucklanders to turn their attention to the city’s overly-restrictive dog laws, writes Julian Light.

Auckland has the goal to be the most liveable city on earth. Just not if you’ve got four paws.

Pooches are treated as pariahs in our biggest city, fast becoming one of the unfriendliest places in the world to be a dog.

Dogs are best mates and trusted family members. They’re loyal, obedient and excellent stick fetchers. Many even have their own Instagram accounts.

Yet when it comes to shared spaces, dogs face more restrictions than Lime scooters.

Access to beaches and other public spaces is limited. Registration is expensive and exclusively directed at dogs.

It’s time for Auckland Council to loosen the leash.

The council is currently consulting on changes to dog bylaws. Despite calls for more dog-friendly laws, there isn’t a single rule in its eye-watering 106-page proposal that will make life easier for dogs or dog owners.

Instead they’re proposing tighter restrictions and less access.

Proposed changes include banning dogs on beaches for even longer, restricting dog access in four more parks, and making it harder to own more than one dog.

Additionally, the proposed changes will allow the council to make any changes they like to any dog bylaws they like, and at a moment’s notice, if they think it will protect flora.

None of those rules will make Auckland more dog friendly. They don’t address the big issues facing dog ownership. It’s also not what we were promised when calls went out to ease up on the pooch policies.

Animal Management Services do a great job picking up and rehoming strays. But the role of council is not just to manage menacing dogs (that only make up less than 4% of all dogs). It’s also for the city’s 100,000 good dogs too. And their law-abiding, registration-paying owners.

I’m not howling at the moon here. Dogs pay their way. It costs up to $177 to register a dog for a year. That’s more than double what I pay to register my car.

This generates millions in revenue for the city coffers. With 100,000 registered dogs, you do the math. Yet only $8 million goes on animal management. The council doesn’t reveal how or where the rest is spent. It’s certainly not on dogs.

Despite Animal Management under-spending every year, this never translates to lower registration costs. Quite the opposite – registration costs go up yearly and are tipped to increase again.

But it’s not just about costs.

In London, you can take your dog on the Tube. But not on any bus or train in Auckland. You can take a dog to Waiheke on the passenger ferry, but only if it’s penned in the same cages demanded by Air New Zealand.

In Paris, it’s common to see dogs and diners eating alongside one another. Not in any popular brunch spots or watering holes in Auckland because council health inspectors can lob hefty fines on establishments.

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In Copenhagen, you can take your dog to amusement parks or the mall. In the City of Sails, there are only 37 dedicated dog parks. That’s roughly 3,700 dogs per space.

In other cities around New Zealand, dogs can access beaches and parks at all hours. Yet our four-pawed friends here can’t even join the family and stay overnight at any council-owned regional park. No wonder visitor numbers are dropping.

Never mind that cats aren’t registered and kill native birds, and leave fur on the couch. No wonder some dogs now identify as cats.

Councillors calling for dog-friendly rules have been neutered as bureaucrats drag their feet and issue even more rules.

There are 100,000 dogs in Auckland. One in five Auckland families own a pooch. The sheer majority of dogs are well-behaved with owners who care for them and clean up after them.

The Council is proposing tighter restrictions and less access that are unfair and punitive.

It’s time we put these unfriendly policies in the dog box.

Have your say on the consultation until 10 May. Or sign the petition here.

The upcoming local elections in October will focus on rates and roading, which are important issues for public debate. But is it too much to ask for our mayoral hopefuls to consider man’s (or woman’s) best friend?

If only dogs could vote.

Keep going!