dogonleashOn lead or off lead? It’s a debate that never seems to end. As part of its Domestic Animal Management Plan 2012-2016, Bass Coast Shire will trial new off-lead areas in and around Inverloch.

DOGS will now be permitted to run free off lead in four different designated beach and reserve locations throughout Inverloch. This decision, made last week by Bass Coast Shire Council, is only a trial, though, with a review and a new council report to be compiled by May next year. The new spots – which take the total off-leash areas throughout Bass Coast up to eight – are: the beach between Grandview Grove and Cuttriss Street; beach between Abbott Street and Ramsay Boulevard; a reserve at the end of Inlet Court, Queenscliff Drive, Headland Way and Somerset Place; and another reserve at the end of Endeavour Place. Time restrictions will also apply to the two beach areas, with dogs required to remain on-lead between 8am and 8pm between December and April. And although they have never been formally established until now, off leash areas already exist in Ventnor (between Graydens Road West and Ventor Road), Cowes (Blue Gum Reserve), Wonthaggi (Strickland Street Reserve) and San Remo (a section of Foots Beach). The trial review next May will take into account: * Any incident causing physical or psychological injury * The effectiveness of (ranger) patrols undertaken during the trial * The impacts of dog excrement in the off leash areas * The effectiveness of self-regulation by the community A decision to go ahead with a trial comes after close to 1500 people (81 per cent of them Inverloch residents) responded to a survey. The issue of providing new off leash areas has been a contentious one, with many in the community preferring that canines to be kept on a lead at all times and not allowed on beaches at all. The matter also divided the council, with three councillors voting against the motion. The Mayor, Cr Clare Le Serve, used her casting vote to get the motion over the line, stating that she supports it because it is a trial. Cr Jordan Crugnale moved the motion and admitted she held a personal view that dogs shouldn’t be allowed on beaches at all. “It’s tricky because as a community representative, you need to be able to balance the community’s wants and needs,” Cr Crugnale said. “I think we’ve come up with something that’s balanced.” Cr Phil Wright said the matter was “very complex” and he was surprised it wasn’t an issue that dominated the 2012 local government election in Bass Coast. Cr Neil Rankine did not support the motion, noting that he was particularly concerned about the new off leash area around the section of beach between Abbott Street and Ramsay Boulevard. “It’s such a short little section there – how on earth can a dog off leash realise it has to stick to that area,” he said. “And we have a sensitive environment further to the east.” Cr Andrew Phillips said dogs should be on leads at all times, whether it’s on the beach, the street or around parks and playgrounds. “Dogs off leashes can run up and attack small children or cause havoc at the beach,” Cr Phillips said. “That’s where the issue is, they should be made to be kept on leashes and that should be enforced properly.” Depending on how the trial goes, the council will investigate introducing additional off leash areas in the shire in the future.