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You’re having the time of your life with your exceptionally 'calm' dog beside you, sipping through your morning coffee while enjoying the cold breeze. You look around, and only a few people are passing by.
"Maybe it's okay to let my dog off the leash", you thought. It is, indeed, tempting for a place that is not crowded. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Unfortunately, a lot.
It is particularly nice to see your dog freely roaming around the neighbourhood, exploring and creating memories with nature. But letting them off and just “be a dog” is all fun and games until they are stuck in situations where they can potentially be in danger or endanger others.
When we decide to own a dog, we have to keep in mind that it's not going to be simple. Buying the essentials might be a piece of cake for you, but the laws and policies that come with keeping a dog are rather long and complicated. Not to mention the fines.
Unrestrained dogs, especially relatively aggressive breeds, can potentially attack other dogs, owners, or passersby. When we think it's safe to let them off leash, things go beyond our control. That's why leash laws are strictly implemented.
While you’re here, let's learn more about leash laws and its importance to have an equally harmonious dog environment across Australia.
The leash law is an ordinance requiring dogs to be restrained when not confined to their owner's property or in public areas. It differs from place to place. This does not just restrict your dog from running free for no reason. The law also considers the safety of your dog, other dogs, owners, and as well as passersby.
When we think our dogs cannot harm even a fly, specific stimuli in the surrounding can trigger them and potentially cause aggressive behaviour, starting a dog fight. Also, it may be a hard pill to swallow, but not all people like dogs. So, to meet halfway, leash laws are implemented to create a comfortable experience for all while out and about.
Leash laws do matter!
Without leash laws, dogs can roam freely without supervision or approach dogs unrestrained. While this can be the cutest sight to see — our dog meeting other dogs — many issues may arise in these scenarios.
Leash laws are put in place to prevent dogs fighting against each other, jumping on random people, contracting illnesses and parasites from other dogs, eating dangerous objects on the ground, harming wildlife in the area, running through busy roads and causing accidents, and destroying private properties. In addition, dogs on the loose, given that they’re not yet spayed or neutered, can get pregnant or impregnate others, causing an increase in the stray dog population.
Often, leash laws are in place because of these natural dangers.
While leash laws differ from place to place, all states in Australia have somewhat the same provision regarding unrestrained dogs in public areas.
In NSW, the law is set out in the Companion Animals Act 1998, which states that when a dog is in a public place, there's a responsibility to make sure the dog is under the control of a competent person by means of appropriate chain or leash attached to the dog secured by the person.
Queensland enforces its people to walk their dog on a leash at all times in public, unless in a designated off-leash area. Similarly, dogs should be temporarily tethered in public places of sufficient strength and length in Western Australia. This is in accordance with the Dog Act of 1976.
According to the Dog and Cat Management Act of 1995, the South Australian government states that dogs must be on leashes of no more than 2 metres in all public and private places where you do not have the consent of the occupier.
Similarly, the state of Victoria strictly enforces the Domestic Animals Act of 1994, which puts emphasis on keeping our dogs under control using a leash (not more than three metres in length). Specifically, dogs must be tethered within 20 metres of a playground, picnic area, fountains, and bodies of water. If you wish to take off their leash, you may do so in designated off-leash areas.
All other states declare such leash laws to create a safe and respectful environment for their people.
Fines are not fine!
When you break the law, you are subjected to pay certain fines. In NSW, when the unrestrained dog has not been declared a menacing or dangerous breed, the maximum penalty you can face is a fine of $1,100. Otherwise, your fine increases to $11,000.
Meanwhile, dog owners in Western Australia can face a penalty of $200 to $5,000 when they fail to keep their dogs under control or on lead in public places. While in Queensland, you can face an on-the-spot fine of $235 if your dog is caught roaming off its leash. For dogs caught wandering at large in South Australia, the owners will have to pay $210.
In Victoria, owners with dogs not securely confined during daytime and nighttime may face fines of $277 and $370, respectively. While not having your dog on a leash in public areas will cost a fine of $185. This can go up to $462 if your dog, unfortunately, injures a person or animal.
Depending on where you are, different leash laws may apply.
While other dogs don't mind at all, some just appear fearful and anxious when you try to use a lead on them. It might take a while for your dog to get used to it.
To effectively introduce your puppy to a dog lead, let them sniff and be familiar with it. Attach the lead to their dog collar or dog harness, give them a treat, and quickly remove it. Repeat the process several times, so your pup can associate the leash with happy things — like treats and walks.
There are so many dog leashes available in the market, and it can be difficult to decide what your dog actually needs. You must choose something functional and suitable for your dog.
As tempting as it is to let your dog walk and run around the park freely, many would appreciate you being a responsible owner. You must understand the possible consequences of your decisions and your dog’s actions. Paying penalty fines for breaching the law is one thing; causing harm to others is unacceptable.
Happy owning, happy leashing!