Taking a stand against the new time restrictions, dog owners went on a brief midday protest walk along the beach at Pensioner’s Point late last Thursday morning. It was one of the last opportunities any of them had to walk their furry friends on the beach at that time of day until well after summer.
By Gav Ross
INVERLOCH dog owners are demanding Bass Coast Shire Council “immediately” reverse a decision that has seen canines banned from any of the town’s beaches for 12 hours a day, even when on a lead.
Last Sunday, a new local law came into effect which prohibits dogs from setting paw on any Inverloch beach between the hours of 8am and 8pm, right through until the end of April.
The banning is the result of a motion passed at a council meeting in October, which introduced the new restriction as a trial.
The same motion also gave more freedom to dogs by introducing a trial for four new off-leash zones around Inverloch.
But two of the new off-leash areas are, confusingly, on beaches included in the restrictions, meaning anyone who wants to toss a ball to their pooches on the sand also either need to get up really early or go for a walk close to dark.
Other council-managed beaches around the shire have time restrictions in place, with dogs barred from certain beaches between 10am and 5am, then again from 8pm until 7am, but only Inverloch has received the 12 hours-straight ruling.
Resident and regular dog walker, Ivan Hipworth, is part of the Domestic Animal Management Advisory Committee formed by the council to assist in assessing where the new off-leash areas would best be suited.
He says the council “tacked on” the time restrictions at the October council meeting without consultation with the committee.
“That’s what is upsetting us – they just added it in and said ‘like it or lump it’,” Ivan said.
“Well, we haven’t liked it and we’re certainly not lumping it!”
The new restriction has been met with major backlash from the community, with notices about the banning plastered all over shop windows throughout Inverloch and petitions distributed.
‘Please help to overturn this unfair and antisocial and ridiculous new ruling’, the notices state in bold, capitalised text.
Ivan believes the daylight banning is grossly unfair to those who responsibly take their dogs for a stroll on beaches as part of their daily routine.
“These people aren’t going to cause any dramas by walking their dog on a lead on the beach,” he said.
“Their dogs aren’t going to rush at people or attack wildlife or something.
“Many elderly residents like to walk their little dogs along the beach during hot weather to let them have a bit of a paddle.
“All of that has been taken away from them.”
Shane Clements, owner-manager of Inverloch Cabins and Apartments on William Street, concurs.
“I see so many older people walking dogs on our beaches during the day,” Shane said.
“They’re not going to be able to do that now, and that’s not fair.
“Many of these elderly people have lost their partners, and their dogs are their life.
“What are they meant to do? Many of them go to bed at around 8 o’clock.”
“And it’s not very fair on the dogs either – how many barking dogs will there end up being at home because they’re not getting walked every day?”
Locals believe the ruling could also have a detrimental effect on Inverloch’s tourism, since many bring their dogs with them to holiday homes over the Christmas holidays.
Shane fears one phone call he received at his place of business late last week could be the first of many to come.
“An old couple who come to us every year with their little silk terrier rang to book a cabin for February,” Shane said.
“They’ve been coming here for 12 years and I felt I held to tell them that they couldn’t take their dog on the beach during the day because of this new rule.
“They cancelled and said they were going to Lakes Entrance instead.”
Council’s acting community and economic development director, Antoinette Mitchell, stressed that the five-month trial for restrictions is just that: a trial.
“During the trial we will be surveying people randomly on the beaches and gathering feedback,” Ms Mitchell said.
She said that, initially, local laws officers patrolling the area will be taking “a softly-softly approach” and issuing warnings.
“But if there are repeat (offenders) who go against the local law, we will be imposing fines,” she said.
“We’re always about education first, though.”
Ms Mitchell said there had been discussion within council about a shire-wide consistency to time restrictions for dogs on beaches.
“But it doesn’t take into consideration the idiosyncrasies of some beaches, such as where there is wildlife such as Hooded Plovers or Shearwaters.
“Those beaches have different requirements for dogs or don’t allow dogs at all.”
Ms Mitchell urged everyone, whether they are upset about the decision or agree with it, to contact council with their feedback.