Dog debate

The dog on or off leash debate has been raging in Stirling Linear Park (SLP) for years.
In an ideal world last week’s Adelaide Hills Council decision not to revoke the on leash by-law in Stirling Park, part of the SLP, would signal the end of the matter.
Past history would indicate that is unlikely.
Councils come and go at elections and with the passion associated with this issue still burning, the SLP could be raised again if future councils have a different composition of elected members.
What is disappointing about this latest dog fight is that the process has done nothing to heal the poisonous divide between opposing sides.
In reality it has probably added to the dog lobby’s feeling of being disempowered and made the conservation lobby wary about the long-term future of its work in the SLP.
Councillors Linda Green and Andrew Stratford raise a good point.
Why go through the process of setting up an Animal Management Plan Advisory Group, putting in submissions and going through public consultation if the council isn’t even prepared to put their recommendations on the table for legitimate debate?
On the other hand, there’s no point debating a topic twice – just for the sake of appearances – if there isn’t enough support for an off leash recommendation in the first place.
A number of councillors expressed deep concerns at the meeting about the quality of the work produced by the advisory group which was tasked with producing guiding principles for dog access on council reserves.
That is concerning. Perhaps those councillors should join the advisory group and contribute to the work.
Some councillors said the advisory group’s brief was too focused on dogs and their owners and failed to address the recreational needs of the 70% of people who do not own dogs.
Some councillors felt that by suggesting off leash areas in the SLP and The Deanery at Bridgewater, the advisory group had overstepped the bounds of its responsibilities.
It probably would have been easier for the group to just set down guidelines and let the council fight out the implementation – reserve by reserve – but that would have ignored the huge amount of community feedback on both sides of the debate in the SLP and The Deanery.
The advisory group tried to find a workable solution.
The fact that its recommendation failed does not mean that there wasn’t merit in the attempt in the first place.
When it comes to the SLP, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

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