dogonleashThe trial period for the exclusion of dogs on the beach, 9am to 6pm is apparently over until next December.
Several letters to the papers have supported the ban and congratulated the four councillors who engineered the trial.
Certainly, on the weekends that I managed to get to my local beach I noticed a significant change.
There were fishermen, men playing beach football, boys playing beach cricket on the foreshore and a few mums with children positioned on Inverloch beach. Not a dog in sight. It was a pretty seascape, with wind surfers whizzing by, jet skis further out and kite surfers skimming the shallows.
The beach did look cleaner with less evidence of garbage and dog poo.
However judging by the large numbers of dogs congregating on the beach after 6pm, I doubt that the ban had anything to do with the cleaner beach, other than to remind dog owners and non-dog owners alike, to remove their garbage.
I sat on the pristine beach and rued the absence of dogs enjoying themselves and making us laugh.
The picture was one of humans indulging themselves, as is our wont, while the dogs stayed home.
Now that the ‘trial’ is over for a few months the demographic is changing.
Older people with their dogs are once more returning to the beach.
Dogs can be seen enjoying themselves-a shocking thought to some people-and dog owners can now walk off roads.
The 6pm rush hour of dogs is now reducing and the numbers of animals visiting the beach, spread across the day-much safer and more reasonable.
People of all ages, but particularly older people, workers and families, no longer need to remove the dog from the beach by 9am or before dark.
Last year was the most depressing in my six years in Bass Coast.
I took my dog to the beach at the allotted times and so only enjoyed three swims myself – after all, one only has a limited time in a day to go to the beach! I did not use my canoe at all.
The impact of the trial, I believe, has been devastating to the cohesion of the communities across Bass Coast.
Serious divisions have emerged in a once fairly cohesive community made up of a minority of people who would prefer no dogs on beaches, and a vast majority for whom this issue affects their lifestyle, health, leisure choices, sense of involvement and even their plans to live in Bass Coast.
Reportedly, for older dog owners, it has been devastating.
Perhaps as a future alternative to a blanket ban, the council might choose to establish poo bag dispensers at the entrances to the beaches next December, as they have done with fishing tackle bins.
Perhaps those people who were so against dogs joining their families for the summer beach outings could spare a thought for the hundreds of older members of the community who were seriously upset and excluded, for the dogs who were left behind in the heat, for the workers who scrambled to get the dog to the beach early or after a busy day, for the mums whose choice was to get meals for their children or take the dog to the beach or squeeze in both.
What kind of message are we giving children when the family dog, supposedly one of the family, is excluded from the major leisure space on offer in Bass Coast?
I for one, hope I never have to experience such a selfish exclusion again and one during which the welfare of animals and a distinct cohort in the community was largely disregarded.
Karen Chugg, Inverloch