Hawkesbury dog owners called to lead the way for safety's sake

Appealing for responsible ownership: Kim Preissl says she doesn't want to see anyone else harmed by off-leash dogs. Picture: Geoff Jones
Appealing for responsible ownership: Kim Preissl says she doesn't want to see anyone else harmed by off-leash dogs. Picture: Geoff Jones

Until recently Kim Preissl says she has enjoyed taking her dog for a walk at North Richmond's Peel Park.

It all turned sour when she noticed an increase in the number of folk flaunting legislation set out by the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) and visiting the area with their dogs off leash.

Ironically, the same park is also home to a designated "off-leash" area.

Ms Preissl, who has been attacked herself, says she fears it is only a matter of time before someone suffers a major injury.

On a recent visit to the park Ms Preissl says she was not only met with contempt by an owner of an unleashed dog, but aggression, when she asked that the animal be restrained.

"I stopped and asked the gentleman, 'would you be able to put your dog on a lead please'," she said. "He ignored me and on the third time he told me to go and xxxx myself!"

Ms Preissl said that she had seen many owners disregarding the rules.

"It is getting beyond a joke," she said. "We lost a lovely neighbour down the south coast ... she lived to 92 and got mauled by a dog. That was nearly 18 months ago now down at Jervis Bay. And that's because irresponsible people think that it's okay to just walk your dog and the dog isn't going to anything.

"I have been attacked myself. We were walking in the park on-lead and a dog off-lead jumped straight up on me.

"It's becoming a trend now. People are training their dogs to walk off lead and its not acceptable. I'm terrified."

Ms Preissl is quick to point out that she does not hold the dogs responsible, saying "the actions of the dogs is a reflection of the irresponsible owners".

And while fearing for her own safety, and that of her own pet, Ms Preissl also worries about others trying to make use of the park, including children.

"Defiance only escalates these issues and many people, including myself, would like to frequent the parks for exercise and should feel safe in doing so," she said.

Hawkesbury Council includes a user friendly break-down of pet responsibilities on its website [hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au/for-residents/animals-and-pets].

Under the banner of "responsible pet ownership" it states: "all dogs must always be walked on a lead with a collar and ID tag whilst in a public place (excluding dog friendly off-leash parks). Dogs must be under effective control in these areas".

It also reminds that under the Act "any dog which is in a place (other than where it is ordinarily kept) unaccompanied by a responsible person is a 'stray'", which could lead to it being seized.

The Officer of Local Government website reports that owner failing to comply with restraint legislation may be liable for a maximum penalty of $1,100 or $11,000 in the case of a restricted, dangerous or menacing dog.

Read the Companion animals Act 1998 (NSW) at tinyurl.com/7hma2th8

There are four dog off-leash areas within the Hawkesbury local government area. They are located at: Pool Park, corner of Ham and Cox streets, South Windsor; Peel Park, Arthur Phillip Drive, North Richmond; Yarramundi Reserve, Springwood Road, Agnes Bands (not fenced); and Pound Paddock, courner of Blacktown and Bourke steets, Richmond.