Bayside City Council is required to have a Domestic Animal Management Plan (DAMP) to outline its policies, programs and practices for domestic animals in the community. It must review the Plan every four years.
Bayside is home to 12,481 registered dogs and 3,659 registered cats (June 2021) with more than one in three households having a furry family member. As pet ownership is high in Bayside across a relatively small land area (36km2), the DAMP must strive to balance the needs of the whole community – including those who don’t have pets – and protect our valued natural environment.
To develop Bayside’s proposed Domestic Animal Management Plan 2022-26, an extensive community engagement and research program was undertaken in two phases:
- the first phase in October – November 2021 gathered representative and detailed feedback from more than 2,150 community members. This feedback was used to draft a new DAMP 2022-26
- the draft DAMP’s key actions were tested through community engagement in March – April 2022.
Explore the results from each phase of consultation below:
Phase 2 consultation: Mar-Apr 22
What we heard on key actions
This is a summary of key findings from the second phase of community engagement:
- Most survey participants (66%) were opposed to a four-year transition to cat containment. However when asked about preferred approaches to cat containment: 46% of respondents supported either full containment (indoors or in an enclosure) (19%) or outdoors during the day on their owner’s property only (no enclosure) (27%).
- Non-pet owners were more supportive of cat containment (52%), including requirements for enclosures when outdoors (47%).
- Strict containment, such as enclosures or escape-proof fencing, was viewed by many to be cruel, cost prohibitive particularly for older and low-income residents, and that more education was needed not enforcement.
Beach restrictions review
- Around a third of respondents wanted a review to lead to more year-round dog off-leash beaches, while a similar number did not want beach restrictions to be reviewed at all.
Effective actions for encouraging responsible pet ownership
Survey participants viewed the following proposed actions as being extremely or very effective for promoting responsible ownership or reducing negative experiences with pets in the community.
- Regular registration days that offer free first registration for new pets (47%)
- Offer standard (desexed) rate to all puppies for first year of registration (46%)
- Promote training of dogs through awareness of providers and incentives (such as subsidised training, registration discounts) (46%)
- Review the locations of dog poo bag dispensers and refilling schedule (56%) and promote locations (51%)
- Increase targeted patrols of reserves and foreshore (summer and sports seasons) (45%)
- Review barking dog complaint process and incorporate technology for evidence gathering (44%)
Pet-focussed community working group
The survey asked about interest in participating in a pet-focussed community working group with 11% expressing interest (56).
What’s changed in the proposed DAMP?
In response to community feedback, the proposed DAMP has been amended to:
Clarify the approach to cat containment
To enhance the safety of cats and native wildlife and reduce cat nuisance from roaming, the proposed DAMP will strengthen cat restrictions over four years.
Increased restrictions are proposed to be implemented in year 4 (2025–26) and will require all owners of cats to keep their cat on their property and not allow their cat to wander beyond the owner’s property at any time. There is no requirement for outdoor enclosures or escape proof fencing proposed.
These increased restrictions for cats are consistent with the current requirements for dogs. The existing night curfew will remain in place, requiring the confinement of cats between 8pm and 6am or between 9pm and 6am during daylight savings.
Prioritise ‘most effective’ actions
The following actions will now be undertaken earlier in the four-year DAMP:
- Review dog poo bag dispenser locations and refilling schedule now in year three
- Review registration fees combined with a review of the current desexing rebate program to help increase early puppy and kitten registrations now in year two
- Develop a program to encourage training of dogs through awareness, education, and incentives now in year two
A new activity has also been included to publish key service statistics quarterly on Council’s website.
Council will consider community feedback from the second phase of consultation and a proposed Domestic Animal Management Plan at its May 2022 meeting.
Phase 1 consultation: Oct-Nov 22
A comprehensive community research project was undertaken in October - November 2021 to inform a new draft Domestic Animal Management Plan for Bayside.
This first phase of consultation on pets and public spaces was designed to better understand community experiences and test new ideas, build on previous research, and explore emerging issues in greater detail.
Below is a summary of what we heard from the community. You can also read the complete Community Research & Engagement Report for more detailed information on the findings.
How you had your say
2,150+ community members participated
Timeline item 1 - active
1,257 postal surveys from randomly selected representative Bayside households
Timeline item 2 - active
897 open access surveys completed by community members
Timeline item 3 - active
31 in-depth interviews with people representing key stakeholder groups or interests
Timeline item 4 - active
250+ conversations during six pop-up engagement events at prominent locations
Timeline item 5 - active
100 contributions via an interactive map, providing location-specific feedback
Timeline item 6 - active
Meeting with Disability Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee
What we heard
Seeing dog owners and dogs doing the right thing (88%) is just as widespread as seeing poor behaviours (89%) – mostly uncollected dog poo.
Households with dogs showed higher incidences of noticing:
- Dog owners who pick up their dogs poo (88%, 69% no pets)
- Dogs happily playing under supervision (85%, 56% no pets)
- Dog owners who have their dogs on leash when they are meant to (86%, 66% no pets)
- Dogs in public spaces who are friendly and well behaved (89%, 64% no pets)
- Off-leash dogs who return to their owner when called (77%, 45% no pets)
- Sportsground grass damaged by dogs digging (17%, 11% no pets).
Households without dogs showed higher incidences of noticing:
- Dogs annoying or intimidating people (33%, 15% dog owners)
- Dogs off-leash when they shouldn’t be (59%, 49% dog owners)
- Dogs in children’s’ playgrounds (24%, 15% dog owners)
- Dogs or cats in conservation zones (heathland, marine sanctuary) (7%, 3% dog owners).
Over time, opinions as to why people don’t pick up their dog’s poo have remained relatively consistent: most dog owners say this is due to being distracted, the dog being out of sight, or not having a bag; whereas non-dog owners predominantly believe it’s because dog owners don’t care.
Dog owners want greater availability of poo bags and more frequent emptying of bins to help address the issue of uncollected dog poo, whereas non-dog owners feel there should be more fines and enforcement.
Seeing uncollected dog poo is becoming more common (84% in 2021, 80% in 2017) and seems be a bigger problem in the north of Bayside (88%).
Feedback from disability advocates also highlighted the horror for wheelchair users if they roll through uncollected dog poo. Cleaning it from hands, wheels and mechanical parts is much more complex for a person with disability than simply taking off and scrubbing a shoe.
Dog ownership over the pandemic period increased from 11,932 registered dogs in 2018–19 to 12,481 registered dogs in 2020–21.
However, research findings suggest that there may have been up to one in twelve Bayside households (8%) who got a pet for the very first time during COVID-19. Another 19% expanded their family with a new pet but weren’t first-time owners.
First-time pet owners had slightly lower levels of awareness of a range of requirements, specifically the cat curfew and need cats to be desexed and registered, effective dog control, and that uncollected dog poo can cause bacteria in the bay. These owners' access to dog training and socialisation is also likely to have been affected by the series of COVID-19 lockdowns.
We also heard a lot of concern, especially during in-depth interviews, about how COVID-19 puppies would cope with being left alone as their people return to workplaces and busier lives.
Dog owners often feel off-leash restrictions are too strict (51%), while non-dog owners commonly think they are not strict enough (41%).
However, there is some agreement between dog owners and non-dog owners (39% and 36% respectively) on the balance of restrictions to being just right to provide a good balance for sharing Bayside’s public spaces.
Protecting the safety of dogs and people at off-leash sportsgrounds during organised sport highlighted a divide in the community: dog owners predominantly want existing rules to apply (on-lead within 20m), whereas non-dog owners have a stronger preference for no dogs at all during sport. Overall, each option registers a similar level of support (no dogs at all 45%, on-leash within 20m 44%).
Almost all pet owners agree that pets are an important part of their family (99%), and they contribute to improved exercise and mental health outcomes.
Three quarters (76%) of pet owners said having a pet during COVID made their mental health a lot better; another 13% said a little better.
Dog owners were more likely to report their mental health being a lot better (60%) as a result of pet ownership than cat owners (52%).
Exercising more because I have a dog decreased to 87% in 2021 (92% in 2017). Similar decreases were observed for family exercise (80% down from 91%); and talking to people more (81% down from 91%). These decreased exercise and social aspects are likely the result of COVID-19 restrictions.
However, a majority (58%) said having a pet during COVID-19 made their physical health a lot better, while 21% said a little better.
We also feel safer at home and on walks due to pet ownership – particularly female pet owners.
Almost all (94%) say having a pet made them feel much safer (67%) or a little safer (27%) when at home.
When walking outside in public places with their pet, well over half (55%) of pet owners feel much safer (33%) or a little safer (25%).
Data also shows a slight increase in recognition that Council recognises the importance of pets.
Fewer than one in ten say they don’t want any contact with dogs, while many more (25%) don’t want any contact with cats.
But even those who adore dogs don’t necessarily want to be approached by them. The widespread perception that “my dog is friendly” doesn’t consider the comfort of others – both dogs and their owners.
During in-depth interviews, many participants – dog and non-pet owners alike – perceive that owner and pet behaviour is generally “a different story” in open (off-leash) areas. Some perceive that owners seem oblivious to the comfort of others when their dog provides unwanted attention to people or other dogs.
Both dog owners and non-pet owners don’t like dogs jumping up, running through picnics, frightening their children and/or their own dogs. Many agree that this behaviour is not acceptable, warranted or asked for and excuses, such as “dogs will be dogs; they’re only playing; just being friendly; won’t hurt you” are not valid.
A prevailing sentiment is that pet owner etiquette is lacking. It was suggested that signage should go beyond rules and restrictions and include examples of proper etiquette, effective control and reasons why this is important.
Feedback from disability advocates also highlighted how dangerous a jumping dog can be for someone with limited mobility, balance issues, or learning to walk again after a stroke or accident.
The majority of Bayside dog owners walk their dogs off-leash locally at least once a week. The most popular walking times are 4-7pm and 8-10am. The top three most commonly used locations for walking dogs off-lead are Dendy Park, Sandringham Beach and Sandringham Harbour. Location selection is driven by the size of the open space (large), being able to walk there from home, and other friendly dogs for socialisation.
Patrol preferences are for weekends, at the beach when restrictions change, and the foreshore Bay Trail (which is an on-leash area).
Some of us also changed our dog walking behaviour during the pandemic: 31% are doing more walks per day and 25% walking at different times of the day. One in four who changed their behaviour said they would continue with their new routine.
More than half of the community support no off-leash dog access to bushland, heathland, conservation areas (65%) and/or Ricketts Point marine sanctuary (56%) to ensure sensitive environmental areas and native wildlife are protected from domestic animals. Although, this is less popular among dog owners (just under half support this).
Over a third (38%) surveyed said they’ve seen cats trespassing, outside at night and/or preying on wildlife.
Almost two thirds (65%) of cat owners indicated their cats were outdoors during the day weekly or more often, whereas one in six owners (17%) report their cats outdoors after dark weekly or more often.
Those who let their cats out at night mostly know that the regulation says they shouldn’t (67% who let their cat out at night monthly or more often are aware, and 88% of those who let their cat out at night sometimes are aware).
However, there is minimal support for cat containment (33% overall, 17% cat owners) nor increasing the night-time curfew for cats (32% overall, 12% cat owners).
Around a third (31%) say their cats are kept indoors only.
The community’s most important pet services for Council to provide are:
- dog poo bags where people walk their dogs
- registration and desexing discounts for pensioners
- posting photos of found pets online
Non-pet owners place particular importance on active surveillance and checking registration through patrols.
There were also some great suggestions for service improvements:
- Poo bag dispensers on beaches WITH the bins, and regular replenishment of bags in dispensers and emptying of bins.
- Encouraging registration at a universal charge and regulating desexing aspects after registration. This is because people may delay registration until their dog is desexed to pay the lower rate. After waiting a year, they may forget or not bother.
- Include training as part of the registration process. For example, a short, simple, online training module on pet ownership/effective control/etiquette.
- Discounts for training at registration (on provision of proof of training at a predetermined level) or references/discounts to dog obedience training organisations.
- Encourage professional trainers/walkers to work in the area – important given the increase in pet ownership during the pandemic.
- Provide a mobile phone app with GPS that shows owners where they are and what rules apply. (We’ve already started to action this by adding a GPS button to our interactive dog walking map.)
For those who had contacted Council over the past three years for domestic animal management reasons other than registrations (mostly reporting a barking dog or dog off leash when it shouldn’t be), over four in ten were not satisfied with the outcome of their enquiry. This was mostly due to the issue not being resolved, late follow-up, or lack of enforcement of dog behaviour in public spaces.
Around a third of respondents said they had experienced a domestic animal management issue they didn’t report (mostly dogs being off-lead when they shouldn’t or not being under effective control; uncollected dog poo; or cats roaming at night). The main barriers to reporting are a perception that Council can’t or won’t do anything about it or not having proof of who did it.
What we're planning
We’ve used community feedback in inform the development of a new draft Domestic Animal Management Plan 2022-26.
Here's a summary of the new proposed actions and initiatives:
Off-leash restrictions (parks and reserves) - no change
With no clear consensus about the strictness of dog off-leash restrictions, the draft DAMP does not propose to change the current restrictions, other than a review of beach restrictions in environmentally sensitive areas, as outlined below.
Council will focus efforts on community education, dog training opportunities, high visibility patrols and appropriate compliance action, and various communication campaigns to support effective and responsible off-lead behaviours and increased compliance with dog restrictions and effective control rules.
Beach dog off-leash restrictions - review
Research found more than half of the community support no off-leash dog access to bushland, heathland, conservation areas and/or Rickets Point marine sanctuary to ensure sensitive environmental areas and native wildlife are protected from domestic animals.
The Bayside Biodiversity Action Plan 2018–27also includes an action to review dog restrictions adjacent to the Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary (Fourth Street to the Beaumaris Sea Scouts) in conjunction with Parks Victoria.
As an action in the draft DAMP, we’ll review dog restrictions for all Bayside beaches in 2025/26 to ensure beach access balances the needs of pets, people and the environment.
Please note: Following Council’s consideration of the draft Plan at its March meeting, the reference to the removal of off-leash access at Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary has been removed from the draft Plan. The review of dog off-leash restrictions adjacent to Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary and all beaches has also been deferred to year four of the draft Plan (2025/26).
Secure dog parks
Council resolved at its March meeting to consider a report at its August 2022 meeting detailing the process to consider multiple open spaces throughout Bayside for the future provision of a secure dog park.
Dogs on off-leash sportsgrounds
The draft DAMP does not propose changes to off-leash access to sportsgrounds or related Council Orders.
Council’s current enforcement approach is to allow shared use of off-leash sportsgrounds, provided dogs remain under the effective control of their owner and at least 20 metres away from people participating in organised sport including training. Off-leash dog access to sportsgrounds during organised sport matches is not permitted as it poses a safety risk to both dogs and players will almost certainly breach the 20-metre requirement.
This approach is designed to maximise shared use of public recreation spaces.
However, to help address a range of shared-use issues, two trial programs* are proposed to be activated in 2022:
- develop a code of conduct at a sportsground involving sports clubs and local dog owners to bring the two key user groups closer together and find common ground on how they can collectively share and care for shared space; and
- trial the use of outdoor lights at selected sportsgrounds over winter to expand access to open space for dogs off-leash purposes.
* These trials were planned for 2020/21 however did not proceed due the impacts of COVID restrictions.
Signage - review
There was a lot of feedback in the in-depth interviews that signage needs to be clear, consistent and plentiful.
As part of the next DAMP, we’re planning to audit and review dog restriction signage to ensure signage is clearly visible, consistent, located at multiple access points and goes beyond just listing rules and restrictions, such as:
- QR codes to interactive maps to display regulations that apply to a particular location
- Definition of ‘effective control’ and why this is important
- Expected behaviour and etiquette examples
Transition to cat containment
The draft DAMP proposes transitioning to permanent cat containment (day and night) over four years. This will ensure the community are supported to transition their existing cats to cat containment so that for the long-term, cats are safer and native wildlife are provided increased protection.
Cat containment means that cats are prevented from roaming at any time, day or night. Cats can be contained by keeping them indoors or on their property.
Council considered a number of factors before proposing the transition to cat containment:
- One third of survey respondents supported introducing cat containment to ensure sensitive environmental areas and native wildlife are protected.
- Over a third (38%) say they’ve seen cats trespassing, outside at night and/or preying on wildlife.
- One in six cat owners (17%) report their cats outdoors after dark weekly or more often and most know they shouldn’t be.
- Cat trap requests increased to their highest levels (101 requests) in 2020/2021.
- Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan 2018-2027 includes an action to review existing cat curfews and improve effectiveness, as appropriate.
- The RSPCA highlights the health benefits for cats and other animals in being contained at home.
It is acknowledged that containment may be a big transition for some cats and their owners. All community members will be able to provide feedback on this proposal through community consultation on the draft DAMP when consultation opens on 17 March 2022.
The consultation period will explore the proposal further, gather ideas, and better understand the level of community support for different definitions of and approaches to cat containment.
- Establish community working groups and strengthen partnerships to provide input/feedback on emerging domestic animal issues
- Regular pop-up stands at Council and community events to support education and registration (instead of annual pet expo)
- Review the current registration desexing rebate program to encourage and increase early puppy registrations
- Implement a short training and knowledge assessment for on-line registration of new pets
- Develop a program to encourage training of dogs through awareness, education and incentives
- Establish a found pets program via Council’s social media channels
- Improve educational material and information for cat owners
- Council’s policies, procedures and resourcing will be reviewed to ensure patrols are targeted and enforcement action is firm and proportionate to ongoing reduction in non-compliances and complaints.
- Increase regular patrols reserves and foreshore during key times such as summer and sports seasons
- Strengthen enforcement around cat traps for nuisance cats
- Review and amend barking dog process and look to incorporate technology to aid in evidence gathering
What happens next?
Community consultation on the draft Domestic Animal Management Plan is expected to be open from 17 March to 18 April 2022.
Community feedback on the draft Plan will then be considered and revisions made to the Plan, as required.
Council is expected to consider adopting a proposed Domestic Animal Management Plan 2022-26 at its 17 May 2022 meeting.
Project subscribers will be notified when consultation opens, along with the broader community.
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