It’s a dog’s life for Rita Heale in Mullumbimby and her dog Jamie and his mate Meeko.
It’s a dog’s life for Rita Heale in Mullumbimby and her dog Jamie and his mate Meeko.

Dog owners break law in Mullum

Every day in Mullumbimby, dozens of perfectly decent, everyday people break the law and go on breaking it the next day and the next.

They are the dog owners of the town, those who love to give ‘Rover’ the exercise he needs and get in a good stretch themselves but who, because of the Byron Shire Council regulations governing the exercising of dogs, have no choice but to break the law.

That’s because council has set aside just one ludicrously tiny section of Heritage Park where dogs may be exercised off the leash, provided owners are able to read the sign that instructs them to stay 10 metres away from the children’s play equipment.

“The Heritage Park area is rubbish,” said one man illegally walking his well-behaved dogs off the leash elsewhere with his wife, and who for obvious reasons must remain anonymous.

 “This is the worst place in Australia we’ve lived in for dogs – in Tasmania there were miles, and in Western Australia lots of places too.

“Other places have been able to work out how dogs and their owners can share spaces without infringing on other people’s rights, so why can’t Byron Shire?”

The couple said that they were constantly meeting other people like themselves who agreed that it was unpleasant to be made to act illegally when they were responsible dog owners who did nobody any harm, but if there is one thing they were sure about, it was that they would continue to break a law they feel is unrealistic.

And while some dog owners do go down to Heritage Park because they want to do the right thing, most found it unsatisfactory, listing as reasons ‘23 dogs down there one day’, the difficulty of a dog being able to get up a good speed, the impossibility of keeping the dogs away from the playground, and the unsatisfactory nature of the walk from a human point of view.

One local who only goes to Heritage Park with her dogs ‘only once in a blue moon’ is Jubilee Avenue resident Rita Heale.

Instead, this elderly lady is forced to drive her dogs Jamie and Meeko to Brunswick Heads to the beach when she feels they need a proper run, and the rest of the time has to make do with a sedate walk around town with the dogs on their leashes.

A spokesperson for Byron Shire Council said there were no plans to increase off-leash areas for dogs in Mullumbimby.

The fine for having a dog in a public place without a leash was $220, and the on-the-spot fine could be issued without a warning.

But as all the dog walkers pointed out, it’s the irresponsible few that spoil it for everyone else – those who let their dogs chase cars, attack marine life or people, and who don’t pick up the poo.

Senior council ranger Gerry Burnage said there had been an increasing number of dog attacks occurring within the shire, and that in an effort to curb this growing problem, council rangers would increase patrols and adopt a zero tolerance to dog-related offences.

But while that may be good news to those sick and tired of irresponsible dog owners, it will bring no comfort to those who would love to be able to enjoy the ordinary everyday pleasure of a good long healthy walk with their four-footed friend running free.

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