Dogs remain generally free to do their business in this city. I don't think there are bad dogs, but I do think there are plenty of dog owners who do not give a monkey's about their dog's impact on others.
OCCASIONAL Letters to the Editor correspondent and former NBN news presenter Ray Dineen has relayed a harrowing story about a beach goer showering with a friend at Newcastle beach last Thursday (Letters 15/10).
Mr Dineen was rinsing off the sand and salt at the shower totem following an ocean dip when a woman stepped into the shower carrying shampoo. And a large curly-haired dog.
"Shampooing her own hair over others is bad enough, but washing the dog's hair is beyond the pale," he wrote. When he stated his objection to the woman, she then started squeegeeing the water from the dog's back in his general direction. Very admirable use of the word 'squeegeeing" right there, and I'll keep it in mind for the fast approaching scrabble battles on hot and humid mossie plagued nights.
Squeegeeing was probably my favourite word from last week, followed by "ICAC-able" and "hawkiss" in a dead heat.
The passive aggression of an indignant dog owner who will wash her dog where and when she likes, thank-you very much. The dog shampooer also affirmed that she showered with the dog at home.
Mr Dineen also pondered whether there is nowhere that we can be spared the presence of a dog. The social ascendancy of dogs in Australia is undoubtable. It doesn't seem that long ago when it was normal for dogs to be kept outside the home and allowed to free-range around suburban streets in packs before the ranger "got 'em". That was way before dogs had their own Instagram and Facebook pages.
There are now doggy day-care joints that email owners a picture report card after every session, featuring information on what their dog did, what it learnt and which other dogs it enjoyed playing with. It's easier to receive information about what your dog did at doggy day-care than it is to find out what your kid did at school.
There's few places more dog friendly than Newcastle. Woe betide any local or visitor who objects to a dog jumping up at everyone it meets, being off-leash in a designated on-leash area, or at a café pestering for food from the plates of strangers. Dogs' importance to people's well-being, emotional and mental health is indisputable, and their role as assistance or therapy pets has been amplified during the pandemic. So it's bad luck if you prefer leashed dogs that don't jump up or humbug for food.
It's becoming very difficult to ban dogs from anywhere - whether that be in the shower at the beach or within apartment complexes. There is a reluctance from the City of Newcastle to undertake high visibility compliance efforts when it comes to dogs. It's obviously too hard. Dogs remain generally free to do their business in this city. I don't think there are bad dogs, but I do think there are plenty of dog owners who do not give a monkey's about their dog's impact on others.
Without enforcement, there will always be plenty of owners who regard their dog as special and therefore an exception to regulation. No enforcement, no care. As summer descends, increasing numbers of canine walkers nick around the back of the Merewether Ocean Baths to allow their dogs to run free on Burwood beach. Not a national park ranger to be seen. Burwood would seem to be a dog beach, despite signs proclaiming penalties for taking a dog onto that stretch of sand that lies four kilometres from the city and a million kilometres from care.
Last Monday, the NSW court of appeals overturned the right of apartment complexes to pass by-laws prohibiting dogs. The court of appeals determined that strata by-laws (the laws that determine what can and cannot be done in apartment blocks) cannot issue a blanket ban on pets or have by-laws that are "harsh, unconscionable or oppressive".
People in apartment blocks have long been allowed to have therapy or assistance pets. Allergies and phobias don't cut it as a reason to not allow dogs in such premises.
That ruling may have a flow on effect and impact on other by-laws in apartment blocks There is opportunity for the owners to make application to proceed to the High Court to argue their case and there's some deep pockets who don't want dogs in their buildings.
But for the moment, owners have a right to live in an apartment as they deem fit, as long as it does not cause nuisance to other owners. And of course, the right to shower with a friend.
Paul Scott is a lecturer in the School of Creative Industries at UoN.