Archie's Law - Dog Sanctuaries replacing dog parks - keeping dogs safe. V1.0
You may wonder what has prompted me to write Archie's law - Dog Sanctuaries.
And what exactly is a dog sanctuary, and why should all the dog parks in Australia be included in such a law? Well as a professional dog walker who uses off lead dog parks twice every day, recently I have had several irrational threats of violence against me and my dogs at dog parks (off lead areas).
The pack of dogs I have are social, but non dog people using this shared facility just have become so disconnected with nature they do not know what is normal dog behaviour. This means that they feel threatened by very natural non-threatening things and are trying to wipe out the few dog areas that exist. A dog sanctuary is essentially a super dog park, that is created for dogs and dog owners. It will promote the healthy activity of walking your dog, and discourage conflict with non dog people.
The current Australia dog park laws just don't work. This Archie's law that I propose will solve this conflict for all parties, and keep dogs safe.
A quick history of dogs in Australia
One hundred years ago you could see dogs freely roaming many streets in Australia. They were 100% off lead areas (except for inside of shops). This was not necessarily a good thing because besides the higher incidence of dogs being run over, the dogs were not necessarily all social and dog fights would break out. However people seemed to value dogs much more in those days. They regularly engaged with their dogs and took them everywhere.
Fast forward to the internet age, where backyards are small and many people are pressed for time and money and dog ownership is on decline. But there is also a massive lack of understanding in the community of what social dog behaviour means.
A dog approaching someone in a dog park is not necessarily hostile or aggressive (if you know the signs of aggressive dog body language you can understand that). But so many people don't understand dogs so they lash out at everyone else out of fear.
A dog may jump on a person's leg in a dog park because they are excited. This again does not mean that they are aggressive or want to do anything but play or be recognised. Dog owners discourage this, but in an off lead area, play jumping that is not causing physical harm should not be seen as a crime. Some non dog people class this harmless behaviour as an assault or attempted attack. This is so seriously wrong. It would be like condoning the right to strike their kids if they bumped into you in the supermarket. That is just plain wrong too.
The more conflict that occurs in these dog parks, the more likely that people won't walk their dogs. This means dogs will become less social, health issues (mental and physical) for both owners and dogs will increase and our link with the world's most social creatures will diminish even more.
Archie's law for dog sanctuaries is not going to make people who have dogs walk them anymore, it's about creating a safe place for all people and dogs in society.
We have places where people can go, almost 100% of the land and sea.
We have bird sanctuaries.
Most parks have jogging areas. And people can jog anywhere. They do not need to jog through a dog park.
Many roads have separate bike lanes. Bike riders can right almost anywhere. They can avoid dog parks, but choose not to do so.
Many parks have skateboard and bike jump facilities.
THESE ARE ALL SPECIFIC OR SOLO USE FACILITIES.
Dogs are banned from all state forests.
However when it comes to domestic dogs, there are a few parks that dogs are allowed into off lead, but they are all SHARED FACILITIES where human rights (especially misguided aggressive jogger and bike rider rights) always seem to take precedence over dog rights.
The following LAW would help resolve this conflict:
Archie's law - DOG SANCTUARIES for DOG and HUMAN safety.
No Bike riding, skate board riding, wind surfers or any form of mechanical apparatus riding.
No golfing, No model car or other hobbies, No jogging
Park access hours should be unlimited or at least up until a reasonable time at night time (assuming that dogs barking will cause havoc in the neighbourhood.
Parks should have proper fencing and gates, just like child enclosures have.
Dog Sanctuaries should have massive signs at all entrances. They should read with information similar to below:
This is a dog Sanctuary. This means that dogs have right of way. They are here to play not be yelled at.
No access without a dog. (This rule might trigger outrage by civil libertarians who do not own or walk their dogs. But as dog owners who walk their dogs off lead have almost become an extinct species, why not look after dog's rights for a change)? This rule would mean that more 'dog people' would be among the dogs and prevent the conflicts with people who do not understand dogs.
No running or riding or any activity in this park that will cause a dog distress or create a chase.
No violence in this dog sanctuary. If you choose to be aggressive to another owner or dog, they have the right to report you to an authority that will deal with the issue including prosecuting you. (A special authority would be set up to protect dogs and dog owners and take the stance that the dog is innocent until proven guilty (as is the right of humans). False reporting would attract heavy penalties).
If you believe that a dog is threatening you, stand still and call the owner. Do not actively escalate aggression against the dog or the owner. You may actually be at a fault.
Further Dog Sanctuary information
At parks where threat of violence or actual violence have occurred to people or dogs, the local council should consider using protective security people to reduce conflict. There are now security people on planes, at football games, on train stations and on trains, but no protective force at dog parks. Is this an issue that needs a similar scheme to neighbourhood watch to protect dog owners and dogs? Maybe.
People with small non social dogs should be requested not to pick their dog up every time another dog approaches and start yelling at the dog.
People should be discouraged from having picnics on the ground in the dog sanctuary, unless they understand dog behaviour and take responsibility for their actions.
WHY NO JOGGING or BIKE RIDING?
Joggers are one of the most hostile group of non dog owner people in parks. I used to run at state championships at school so I am a little aware of the act of jogging. However in 2013, only a few joggers seem to own dogs and understand dog behaviour, for those that don't, dogs scare them. In Cairns there are signs in their botanic gardens telling people not to jog as it will trigger the cassowary fight/ attack response. Why not the same at dog parks?
Why can't people understand that dogs are tame wild animals that also have a chase response. It does not mean that they will attack anyone, and dog aggression should not be tolerated, but they evolved to chase and the only way of properly addressing this evolutionary trait is to ban the thing that will trigger it - people running in parks - who then get aggressive at the dog. Just as no parent has 100% control of their child, no dog owner has 100% control of their dog. It does not mean that the dog is a threat.
Joggers (often with ear phones in) are often very surprised if they see a dog jogging besides them. Whether they run away faster (causing a chase) or they try and kick a dog (often sparking a dogs protective aggressive response) the same issue is occurring. The person doesn't know dog behaviour and feels justified in being aggressive to dogs and owners.
Bike riders who have been heckled for their behaviour on city roads, now believe that they should be able to ride through dog parks without a dog being curious and wanting to have a look. Dogs have evolved with a chase mechanism that can be very strong in some breeds regardless of the amount of training these dogs have. A chase mechanism means running alongside a bike, it does not mean grabbing of a person. I have never seen this happen, though many bike riders have a real fear of it, so they angrily express this fear which of course excites a dog further.
THE PROBLEM WITH CURRENT DOG PARKS
There are so few off lead areas that have proper fencing and allow full time access that many people can now not be bothered going the extra distance to find a dog park.
Most dogs parks seem to exist because council and property developers can't find a way of selling the land. These areas are often built on land fill areas that have potentially toxic waste that would cost millions to clean up. This is why parks seem to allow dogs and dog owners because their is little other value for the land. And even then they are not for sole dog use.
For example here are three great (location) parks that I have used:
The park to the left of Newport Lakes (Newport VIC). This used to be the local refuse tip. Two metres of clay was dumped on-top of the tip 20 or so years ago to seal in the goodness. The lakes to the right of the park is a NO DOG zone. Joggers can use this to their hearts content, but of course many prefer the dog section.
Cruikshank Park (Yarraville VIC) - a beautiful little creek (sometimes polluted) runs through the middle of it. The houses are set back on either side apparently far enough away from the flood zone. The council has decided to restrict off lead hours Monday to Friday so dogs cant be off lead between 8-10 am and 3-5 pm. This protects school children using the park as a short cut, but discourages many people from their morning daily dog walk. The hour restrictions have been extended, for no good reason, to include Saturday and Sunday restrictions.
The park next to Newport Gas Power station - This is ground that the old coal powered station used to operate on until it was demolished. The ground may be polluted by coal by-products, and over head there are 220 KV power lines (high voltage power lines have been linked to cancer for many years). You will find many people walking their dogs off lead here, though it officially isn't a dog park and the gas station has given provisional ownership to the Ports Authority. Naturally no one wants to take responsibility for the park.
There is a trend of increasing violence in dog parks from non dog owners at dog owners and dogs. Non-dog owners are using intimidation and stories that a dog is about to "attack them" to try and bully owners and dogs out of parks.
Shared resources are great, however it is clear that many parks have signs about dogs off lead either too small or in the wrong places. And people seem to give these signs and dog owners the same respect they pay to no stopping or no parking signs - very little. It is understood that the sign does not promote aggressive dogs, however it should not welcome aggressive non dog people either.
By and large dog owners are responsible people. If a dog misbehaves most dog owners discipline their dog. Unfortunately a little sign that says a dog is allowed off lead, will not stop a non dog owner from having fear of dogs and wanting to attack dog owners and dogs.
THE VALUE OF SAFE OFF LEAD DOG AREAS
For those who want a longer explanation on the value of off lead dog walking, please see this article: The benefits of off lead dog walks
However in short, many dog trainers and dog behaviourists know that daily off lead dog exercise can cure 90% plus of all dog issues. Issues that arise from boredom, lack of release of energy, separation anxiety etc.
Unless a dog learns to be social with ANY other social dog, you will have a dog that is living well below their potential and making your life less enjoyable.
While genuine dog sanctuaries, in the above form are likely to never exist, if they come anywhere near creating a safe place for dogs and owners, there exists the chance that people will continue walking their dog even after it goes through its cute puppy stage.
A dog sanctuary if advertised enough might convince people who may not normally walk their dog to do so.
The current model of putting up tiny parking sized signs saying that dogs are allowed off leash is highly inadequate for providing safety to non-dog people, dog people and dogs.
Using dog parks as a shared resource that includes joggers and cyclists has regularly failed and resulted in violence.
Creating a hostile environment that discourages off lead dog walks leads to anti social dogs. This is the real cost to society.
If you think that these proposed rules for dog sanctuaries are excessive, you probably don't go to a variety of multi-use dog parks every day of every week and see the conflicts that occur between non dog people and dog owners.
If this is a society that values dogs for their companionship, pays so much for vet bills, dog food, dog grooming and occasionally dog walkers, it should be a non issue that we try and create a safe haven for what we give lip services to as man's best friend.
If you are interested, perhaps you will take this concept to your council or someone who can cause a real positive change for everybody, even dogs and dog owners.
Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please use a LINK reference to www.dogwalkersmelbourne.com.au
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