By Natalee Kerr
Surf Coast beaches need “tougher” dog laws with a majority of owners ignoring regulations, according to recently-published Deakin University research.
The study found compliance with laws was “low”, with 70 per cent of dogs being walked at on-leash beaches were actually off-leash, threatening local wildlife.
Deakin Associate Professor Mike Weston suggested council replacing some on-leash areas with no-dog zones.
“Clearly regulations aren’t effective and other management options need to be considered,” he said.
Torquay dog walker Jasmine Arthur said owners were “definitely” ignoring leash regulations.
“You see it all the time,” she said.
The Jan Juc to Bells Beach track was one of the “worst” areas for misbehaving dogs, despite “plenty” of signs outlining the rules, she said.
“It’s an on-leash area but in so many instances I’ve been there and dogs will just be running freely.”
But replacing on-leash areas with no-dog zones would be “unfair” on those doing “the right thing”, she said.
Researchers attached GPS trackers to more than 160 dogs to monitor them on eight beaches between Point Lonsdale and Anglesea.
But shire’s environmental manager Ransce Salan said council officers had implemented various measures since the data was collected in 2012, including patrols of well-known hooded plover breeding areas.
Mr Salan said council preferred an “education first” approach rather than issuing a $165 fine for an off-leash dog in an on-leash zone.
“Rangers explain the regulations to people who have their dog off-lead in an on-lead area,” he said.
Council would not make any “major changes” to dog regulations until at least 2021, said Mr Salan.