Residents' groups call on Christchurch council to make beaches safe for dogs

Vicki Heasley with her two current dogs Poppy (left) and Frankie. Photo: Supplied
Vicki Heasley with her two current dogs Poppy (left) and Frankie. Photo: Supplied
Vicki Heasley’s bichon-maltese was attacked and killed by another dog at New Brighton beach.

Four years later, she is too afraid to walk her other dogs on the beach alone and says it is “not safe” any more.

Now Heasley is applauding residents’ associations calling on Christchurch City Council to undertake stricter enforcement of dog control bylaws on beaches along Marine Pde.

In October 2018, Heasley was walking her two dogs, Button and Jewel, when a “big black” dog off the leash approached them and suddenly attacked Button, pushing her into the sand and killing her.

Button was attacked and killed at New Brighton beach four years ago. Photo: Supplied
Button was attacked and killed at New Brighton beach four years ago. Photo: Supplied
Heasley said it took three adults to pull the other dog off Button, who was already dead. She said such attacks weren’t uncommon in the area.

“I won’t go to the beach now unless I’m with my husband because there’s just too many dogs that run up and try to have a go at other dogs,” Heasley said.

“I’ve been abused and sworn at by people whose big dogs have run up to mine when I’ve picked mine up. There’s just no accountability for owning a pet.”

North Beach Residents’ Association co-chair Phillip Ridge, who lives in New Brighton, organised the submission.

He said it was clear there is an issue with some dog owners not complying with rules, such as picking up their dog faeces and having control of their dog, and there is a “lack of consideration” for other beach users.

The joint submission was presented to the Waitai Coastal-Burwood Community Board by the North Beach, Waimairi Beach, New Brighton and Southshore residents’ associations.

The submission highlights an increase in dog owners exercising their dogs at the beach with a minority not complying with the dog control policy and bylaw.

The bylaw lays out obligations of dog owners, including keeping a dog under effective control and removing dog faeces in public places.

“It was evident among locals that some unacceptable behaviour was happening, whether people aren’t aware of the bylaws or people just don’t follow the rules,” Ridge said.

City council head of regulatory compliance Tracey Weston said it undertakes regular proactive patrols and also responds to complaints received to ensure compliance with the Dog Control Act and the city council’s Dog Control Bylaw.

“Enforcement options include issuing warnings and infringements. If continual breaches occur over a 24-month period this may result in an owner being made a probationary dog owner or may be disqualified from owing a dog for a determined period,” Weston said.

However, Heasley said she has never seen animal control officers on the beach.

“I see them parked, sitting in their car looking on their phone and they’re probably doing business, I don’t know, but you never, ever, ever see them on the beach where all the problems happen.”

For the period of January 1 to December 31, 2021, the city council received 528 complaints of dog attacks, 74 complaints of dogs in prohibited areas/breaching the bylaw and 74 complaints of dogs fouling across the city.

Board chair Kelly Barber said the submission has been referred to city council staff in the animal management team to investigate and report back to the board.

“It’s quite rare for community organisations and residents’ associations to get together,” Barber said.

“I think the whole board thinks it’s something that needs to be taken seriously.”

Phillip Ridge. Photo: Supplied
Phillip Ridge. Photo: Supplied
Ridge said the issue had been bubbling away for some time but has recently got worse. He said some instances led to confrontations between beach users, sometimes ending in physical assault.

“We want to ensure everyone can enjoy their experience at the beach,” Ridge said.

“The bad behaviour doesn’t come from dogs, it’s the dog owners that haven’t trained their dogs properly.”

Ridge said he hopes some action can be taken by the city council to have stricter enforcement of the dog bylaws to ensure everyone can enjoy the beach.

“With freedoms comes responsibilities,” he said.

“People can have their dog off the leash at the beach but they need to have control of them and respect the rights of others. It just comes down to consideration.”

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