Dog park on the agenda as council revisits off-leash rules

It's a dog's life: Benalla's canine companions may soon have a new designated area to exercise off-leash. Photo by Blake Smith

Benalla Rural City Council is looking at options to provide an off-leash dog park in the Rose City.

In March, after council released its Domestic Animal Management Plan, regular visitors to Churchill Reserve were shocked to see signs stating all dogs must be on a leash.

Council had undertaken consultation in regards to its DAMP and had received 100 responses.

While other off-leash areas were designated, many in the community felt these were not adequate for a variety of reasons.

Recently a petition to have an off-leash ‘time-share’ arrangement at Churchill Reserve was circulated and delivered to council.

It was discussed at the council meeting on April 27, with several councillors backing a move to revisit that part of its DAMP.

Mayor Bernie Hearn presented the petition to council stating it had gained 613 signatures.

Councillor Gail O’Brien then addressed the meeting.

“I’m actually very pleased we received this petition tonight and look forward to discussing it in more detail over the coming weeks,” Cr O’Brien said.

“I’m certain that we can find a solution for all the stakeholders to be satisfied with.

“I’m also pleased to say that we’ve identified the need for additional dog exercise and walking areas in town.

“And because of that we’ve allocated $100,000 in the 22/23 budget that is presently out for community consultation, until mid-late May.

“New and upgraded dog walking exercise facilities is something that I, and my fellow councillors, have advocated very strongly for.

“Our community has asked for this and we’ve set aside funding to make this happen.

“I look forward to the community consultation, which will guide the final location and design of the park.

“First, and foremost, the budget needs to be adopted.”

Options: There are currently four places in Benalla where dogs can be walked off-lesh.

Cr Justin King said he supported Cr O’Brien’s comments.

“As outlined, it is in our draft budget at this time, with an allocation of $100,000,” Cr King said.

“And I know that, from around this table, council is very committed at looking at exploring all options in Benalla for a dog park that the community can be proud of.

“I acknowledge the 600-plus signatures, and we’ll continue to work ... to explore every option. And if this budget gets up we will look at what we can do with $100,000.”

Cr Peter Davis said council might have been a bit harsh in moving so quickly with revised off-leash rules.

“Although it went out to public consultation originally ... I think it’s good to have a petition and I think it’s good now people have said what they want,” he said.

“Now as councillors we’ll act accordingly and hopefully be able to remedy this situation.”