Item 8.7 - Attachment 1
Draft Companion Animal Management Plan
1 Overview and summary 3
2 Parramatta’s LGA profile 4-5
3 Our goal 6
4 Relevant policies and procedures 6
5 Identification and registration 7-8
6 Customer Service 8-9
7 Dogs in public places 9-10
8 Faeces Management 11
9 Nuisance animals 12-13
10 Cat Management 14-15
11 Dangerous and restricted dogs 15-16
12 Education and enforcement 17-18
13 Leash Free Areas 18-19-20
14 Conclusion 21
Our purpose at Parramatta City Council is to deliver the best possible services to our community. The Companion Animal Management Plan is no exception to this. In fact, with more and more amendments to the Companion Animals Act 1998, and dog attacks becoming seemingly more prevalent, creating a companion animal management plan to reflect both community concerns and the law has become critically more important.
With the increased public awareness for the importance of responsible pet ownership, it is imperative that Council along with other stakeholders provide the community with a plan to improve and maintain certain key issues which must be managed. These key issues are (in no particular order):
· Identification and lifetime registration
· Customer service
· Dogs in public places
· Faeces management
· Nuisance companion animals
· Dangerous and restricted dogs
· Cat management
· Education and enforcement
· Councils leash free areas
· Funding and review
Parramatta City Council is one of
Currently there are thirteen (13) veterinary clinics within the Parramatta LGA along with seven (7) leash free areas, an additional approved leash free area pending fencing and approximately 300 parks and reserves. There is also a very wide range of pet related businesses those being pet shops, groomers, obedience trainers, agility clubs and boarding facilities.
In the 2008/2009 financial year, Parramatta City Councils companion animal population was made up of the following groups;
· Dogs 17,973
· Dogs registered 9,367
· Cats 8,100
· Cats registered 1,979
· Dangerous dogs 16
· Restricted breeds 25
In 2008/09 Parramatta City Council received over 500 service requests which were animal related. These were broken down in the following categories:
· Faeces 16
· Roaming 73
· Nuisance 99
· Attacks 70
· Harassment 50
· Enquiries/other 212
It should be noted that these statistics may not include all on going or repeat complaints. To explain this further Animal Management staff attend to all complaints wether the are raised through a Service Request or by phone. Once the matter is finalised the investigating officer will close the task and provide their contact details to the customer for future reference. If the customer then calls the Officer directly to advise that the problem is still occurring the investigation may still be linked to an existing Service Request. This is particularly prevalent in complaints regarding nuisance behaviour.
Of this number 372 service requests were completed within the designated time frame. During the same time period Council also received over 250 calls for stray dog pick ups. Parramatta City Council does not pick up stray cats.
Pound statistics for this same time period can be seen as follows;
· Dogs impounded 446
· Dogs claimed by owner 181
· Dogs euthanized 149
· Dogs re-homed 38
· Dogs Sold 78
· Cats impounded 187
· Cats claimed by owner 4
· Cats euthanized 79
· Cats re-homed 0
· Cats sold 9
Dogs and cats impounded includes
all seized, surrendered and trapped dogs and cats from within
The scope of this Companion Animal Management Plan is to efficiently and effectively address all the key areas identified as being crucial to the successful management of companion animals. That is, providing the community a consistent and ongoing service which, through education, helps develop and encourage responsible pet ownership, enforce the safe keeping of dangerous and restricted dogs while preserving the environment and the peace, comfort and lifestyle of all our residents including non pet owners.
Parramatta City Council currently has a number of policies and procedures such as the Local Orders Policy for the keeping of animals, Rangers Standard Operating Procedures (S.O.P) and a Leash Free Policy. This Companion Animal Management Plan must be read in conjunction with these and any other policies or procedures Council may implement from time to time.
Identification is an essential part of responsible pet ownership as this creates for Council the opportunity to identify companion animals and reunite them with their owners. It is compulsory under the Companion Animals Act 1998 that companion animals (cats and dogs) must be micro-chipped from 12 weeks of age or before sold.
Lifetime registration of all companion animals is required from 6 months of age under the Companion Animals Act 1998. This helps provide funds for Councils and the Local Government to carry out education and enforcement programs. A generous discount in registration fees for neutered animals also encourages voluntary de-sexing.
When a companion animal is identified via a microchip, the animal and owner’s details are placed onto a database called the Companion Animals’ Registry (CAR). This registry can then be accessed (by approved persons only) to determine the address of an animal, or to update and cross check relevant information. All Councils within NSW can access the information available on the CAR.
· Greater identification of attacking animal/s in dog attacks.
· Improved percentage of lifetime registration of animals.
· Reduce euthanasia rates for animals taken to animal holding facilities.
· Reduce number of impounded Animals
· Reduce costs to pet owners by increasing return rate of impounded animals to owner in lieu of being conveyed to holding facility
· Reduce cost to Council for unclaimed animals held at holding facilities
· To continue to educate the general public, including children and pet owners on the importance of permanent identification and lifetime registration.
· To increase the percentage of lifetime registered dogs to a minimum of 80%.
· To increase the percentage of lifetime registered cats to a minimum of 50%.
· To introduce on-the-spot micro-chipping of restricted dogs.
· To better utilise appropriate funds received from lifetime registration for education and other programs to help foster responsible pet ownership.
Customer service has become a major role in the day to day duties of Parramatta City Council Animal Management Officers and Rangers and indeed all staff members. The community has a very high expectation of Council to provide a level of customer service which is second to none. With such a diverse range of culture and community groups living, working and visiting the LGA, it is essential that officers are aware of the importance of this and are familiar with the S.O.P and the Customer Service Charter.
Unfortunately, with any regulatory role and in particular the role of Animal Management there will always be a negative aspect impact of good customer service. This is evident in the difficult decisions and actions officers must, at times, make. By conducting a nuisance dog complaint or a dog attack investigation, the satisfaction of the complainant is complimentary. In comparison, the satisfaction of the dog owner is, without question, low.
· To seek joint co-operation and support from expert agencies who can assist Council in creating joint de-sexing, education and other programs
· To improve ‘animal friendly’ perception of Council within the community
· To increase percentage of dog and cats being re-homed, re-claimed or adopted verses euthanasia from animal holding facilities
· To increase education across the community to achieve greater compliance
· To provide a consistent high level of customer service across the community
· To build strong long term relationships with other relevant agencies such as veterinarian clinics, the Animal Welfare League, the RSPCA and the Cat Protection Society.
· To maintain on going staff training and provide information updates in relation to best practice mediation and excellent customer service provision
An important part of being a responsible pet owner is to socialise your dog with other animals and people. If this is done throughout the lifespan of a dogs’ life, the earlier the better, then many dog attacks, on both people and other animals could be prevented. The use of public open spaces promotes a healthy and sociable lifestyle for both dogs and their owners alike. Dog owners are one of the highest users of open spaces. However, many of these spaces used are not designated leash free areas and so it is important that Council ensures that while dogs and their owners have the right to enjoy this space freely and uninterrupted they must still comply with the provisions of the Companion Animals Act 1998. This is so that other park users, including other dog owners and, more importantly the person who chooses not to own a dog also maintain their right to enjoy the same space freely and uninterrupted.
Under the Companion Animals Act 1998 all dogs must be under effective control whilst in a public areas and be under the control of a competent person. This means that all dogs are to be held on a leash by a competent person, except when within a designated leash free area. When in a leash free area, the dog must still be under the control of a competent person via voice command.
Generally, in our LGA most dog attacks occur as a result of the dog not being under effective control, where it either escapes the confines of the property it is ordinarily kept on, or has been allowed off lead in a public place whilst the owner is taking it on a walk.
Dogs are strictly prohibited from the following areas:
· Children’s play areas
· Food preparation/consumption areas
· Recreational areas were dogs are prohibited (must be signposted)
· Public bathing areas where dogs are prohibited
· School grounds
· Child care centres
· Shopping centres
· Wild life protection areas
· To achieve a safer community by ensuring correct dog control occurs in open spaces
· To ensure members of our community are able to use Councils open spaces that they may otherwise avoid due to uncontrolled dogs.
· To reduce the number of unleashed roaming dogs which in turn will reduce the cost to Council for collection and impounding of strays. This should also then contribute to the reduction in the number of attacks those which are reported and investigated and those that are not reported/actioned.
· To improve education information for the public and pet owners about the importance of effective control and how to react and report incidents that have affected them
· To increase and promote the healthy and active lifestyle of using Councils’ public spaces, whilst being a responsible pet owner by complying with the Companion Animals Act 1998
· To reduce dog attacks by educating owners about preventing their dog from escaping and always ensuring effective control
With the increase in Councils dog population and a high use of public spaces, faeces management has become a major problem for Councils in respect to the environment and public health.
Under the Companion Animals Act 1998 there are provisions for the issue of an on the spot fine for the offence of failing to immediately remove and properly dispose of a dogs faeces. This, unfortunately, is very difficult for Council officers to manage and enforce as the offence (generally) must be committed in the presence of the officer for action to be taken.
· To continue to educate and reduce this unlawful behaviour
· To promote and thus create greater use of open spaces by families and non dog owners
· To provide and maintain a cleaner community
· To minimize the amount of faeces which is found deposited within public areas, including both on and off leash areas.
· To educate all pet owners on the implications of failing to remove their dogs’ faeces. This includes the impact this irresponsible behaviour has to the environment and the health of other members of the LGA, and the hefty on-the-spot penalties for the dog owner.
Nuisance companion animal complaints are the most time consuming complaints for Animal Management Officers to investigate. If this area could be managed more efficiently officers’ time could be spent proactively on other key areas.
Currently Council has a one (1) month turn around step by step process that is used to investigate barking dog complaints. However, in practice, turnaround time is greatly increased when repeat complaints are received. That is, a dog is quiet for a period of time only to re-commence the nuisance behaviour again shortly after. Council is also faced with the problem that some complaints may in fact be a neighbourhood dispute, whereby Council is used as another ‘tool’ in the ‘fight’.
A dog can be declared a nuisance dog under the Companion Animals Act 1998 if it:
· Is habitually at large, or
· Makes a noise by barking or otherwise persistently occurs or continues to such a degree that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premises ,or
· Repeatedly defecates on property outside the property on which it is ordinarily kept, or
· Repeatedly runs at or chases a person, animal or vehicle, or
· Endangers the health of person or animal, or
· Repeatedly causes substantial damage to anything outside the property on which it is ordinarily kept
A cat may also be declared a nuisance under the Companion Animals Act 1998 if it:
· Makes a noise the persistently occurs to such a degree or extent that it unreasonably interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of any person in any other premises, or
· Repeatedly damages anything outside the property on which it is ordinarily kept.
If Council officers are satisfied that a dog or cat is a nuisance they may declare the animal to be a nuisance. This order remains in force for a period of six (6) months. A breach of a nuisance order may result in an on-the-spot penalty or prosecution in court for repeated breaches of that order.
· Reduce the amount of nuisance animal complaints and the time spent on investigating these.
· Encouraging each party to be part of the solution so that a more favourable outcome can be adopted with a higher rate of success.
· To better educate the community of what defines a nuisance animal and how to acquire the necessary proofs under the current legislation/regulations
· To better educate pet owners on how to minimize nuisance behaviour and the consequences for allowing their pet to continue to be a nuisance
· To encourage and facilitate mediation between all parties
In general, in most animal management plans, cats have not received the same amount of attention as dogs have. This may be a direct reflection of the Companion Animals Act 1998 as most of this legislation has been dedicated to the regulation of dogs. For instance, under the same legislation there is no such thing as a cat attack.
Also, a cat is not ever considered to be ‘not under effective control’ as they are free to roam. The limitations of the Companion Animals Act 1998 regarding cats makes it very difficult for Councils to regulate and manage cat behaviour.
Therefore cats have not had as high a priority as dogs in the way they are managed. Unfortunately, this lack of focus in the Companion Animals Act 1998 has a two tiered effect. It creates a ‘too hard basket’ mentality for Councils and contributes and encourages cat owners to be lax when caring for their pet. Many owners are simply unaware of their cats’ behaviour or whereabouts. Many do not keep their cat indoors at night and many do not de-sex their male cat – which is free to roam!
Furthermore, there is a current
developing boom within
However, as time goes on more and more residents are raising their concerns regarding cats. This includes the welfare of stray cats, the welfare of residents and the environment as a whole.
Under current legislation cats have to be identified from 12 weeks of age via a microchip or a collar and tag. They must be registered from 6 months of age.
· To reduce the stray cat population
· Greater protection for wildlife in our bushland areas
· Increase the number of cat registrations
· Reduce the euthanasia rate in impounding facilities
· To facilitate ongoing relationship with various animal organizations such as The Animal welfare league, The Cat protection society, and the RSPCA to create and deliver de-sexing and other beneficial programs.
· To promote the de-sexing of and greater responsibility of domesticated cats.
· To encourage cat owners to keep their cats indoors at night.
· To educate residents and property owners ways to minimise cats harbouring on their property
Dangerous and restricted dogs are the most publicized and scrutinized part of animal management. For this reason and for the safety of the public in general, the compliance of these animals is a high priority within the Rangers Division. In 2006/7 the Companion Animals Act 1998 underwent major changes in the way dangerous and restricted dogs are to be kept. Very strict control requirements and specific regulations in relation to how they are housed were implemented in order to further minimise the risk associated with these dogs in our society. Failure to comply with all and any of the regulations within the specified time frame carry hefty on-the-spot penalties and even greater maximum penalties in court. Regulating this area has been greatly assisted by the Companion Animals Act 1998 as it gives officers the authority to seize dogs that are not complying when it is in the best interest of the public to do so. Animal Management Officers carry out annual inspections of all our dangerous and restricted dogs at the premises where they are normally kept. Furthermore, all CRM’s that allege non compliance of a dangerous or restricted dog is given priority, and an investigation is initiated within 24 hours of the Officer receiving that service request.
Dogs that are involved in attacks that Council considers to be of a serious nature due to the injuries caused to person or animal or less serious attacks (often with minor or no injury) that occur on a number of occasions, are declared to be dangerous.
Restricted dogs are those that are micro-chipped as being a certain (restricted) breed or a cross of that breed. If a Council officer believes a restricted dog (Pitbull Terrier) has been micro-chipped as being of a non restricted breed (say a Staffordshire Terrier) that officer may place that dog on notice to declare it as being restricted. The onus is on the owner of the dog to have the dog breed and temperament assessed by an authorised assessor through the Department of Local Government. Although under the legislation there are four (4) restricted breeds, currently, in the Parramatta LGA we have only the Pitbull Terrier to regulate.
· Minimise the chance of subsequent attacks or incidents by already declared restricted and dangerous dogs
· Greater safety in the community by knowing where all our restricted dogs are.
· To help prevent dog attacks by dog owners taking greater precaution in preventing their dogs escaping the property in which it is ordinarily kept
· To keep owners of dangerous and restricted dogs focused on their responsibility of owning such a dog and to be diligent in complying with the control requirements at all times
· To achieve 100% compliance for all dangerous and restricted dogs.
· To identify non-micro-chipped restricted dogs or restricted dogs identified as another breed and gain 100% compliance
· To educate dog owners who are fined for ‘Dog not under effective control’ of the consequences and repercussions of a dog attack
· To educate dog owners whose dog has been identified as a nuisance for ‘habitually at large’ of the consequences and repercussions of a dog attack
· To introduce random spot checks on dangerous and restricted dogs.
To have a successful and proactive approach to animal management education must play a key role. Unfortunately this is an area that has been largely neglected in recent times. This can be attributed to staff levels, major changes in legislation, seasonal changes, staff turnover and a lack of dedicated funding for the management of companion animals. Therefore Officers have been unable to spend quality time being proactive and more often that not are reactive in this area.
To be effective and ongoing over the long term, education should start with the younger generation (primary age school children). However current owners and the general public must also be educated and reminded about responsible pet ownership and management.
Enforcement is the current reactive method of education. However, this is often interpreted as a fund raising venture rather than a method of education. In many cases it gives Council a negative image although it is essential and often unavoidable in many situations. Council must continue with this enforcement as it is a vital part to ensuring compliance with the Companion Animals Act 1998 and having a successful animal management plan. However, a shift needs to be made where we can focus on education first and/or enforcement second. If community education is done effectively then there may be less need for enforcement as there have been fewer offences committed. From the point of view of someone who has been attacked, or someone who is no longer irritated by that barking dog, this can only be a positive outcome. Indeed less attacks, strays and nuisance animals is a positive outcome for Council.
· To successfully educate present companion animal owners to ensure a flow on effect for future generations for the benefit of the community
· Minimise the number attacks/incidents that can be avoided through responsible pet ownership
· Reduce nuisance animal complaints
· Reduce the number of attacks that go unreported by educating the community on what action or assistance can be provided by council
· Improve perception within the community and promote that we are an animal friendly Council taking a proactive approach to all companion animal issues
· To participate on a regular basis with delivering the Department of Local Governments’ Spot Program to school aged children in Kindy to year 2 within our LGA
· To develop and implement an education program for school aged children in years 3-6 within our LGA that compliments and supports the Spot Program.
· To conveniently provide relevant and up to date information for pet owners
· To provide clear and consistent signage throughout all parks and reserves within the LGA
· Identify hot spots and problem areas within our LGA and educate the people/residents within that area
Parramatta City Council currently has seven (7) areas designated as being a leash free area within our LGA. They are:
· Cowells Lane Reserve, Ermington
· Woseley St Reserve, South Granville
· McCoy Park, Toongabbie
· Dan Mahoney Reserve, North Parramatta
· Barnetts Park, Winston Hills
· Scout Memorial Park – Granville
· Burlington Memorial Park – Northmead
An eighth leash free area has been approved for use at George Kendall Riverside Park, Ermington but it will not be open for use until such time as it is securely fenced.
Council has an obligation to provide a designated area where owners can take their dogs and allow them to run free, providing much needed exercise in a growing and congested city. However the health benefits are not just for the dog. These areas are great source of enjoyment and exercise not only for the dog, but more so for the owner as people are able to get out walking and socialise with those with similar interests – that is, other dog lovers.
Leash free areas, if used properly, can also play a vital role in decreasing the chances of attacks. This is because many dog attacks occur as a direct result of the dog not being socialised with other animals or with people outside of the immediate family. Dogs that are taken to off leash areas are generally more obedient and well behaved than dogs that are not. This is because the owner has invested the time and attention necessary to exercise and discipline their dog and has had to learn to control the dog without a lead. Compare this to those few who simply leave their dog in the backyard. The dog is largely neglected of attention, exercise and discipline. When the dog does escape the confines of its yard, more often than not the dog will chase, harass or attack another animal or person as it has never been properly socialised outside its usual surroundings.
While the use of leash free areas have all these benefits, being leash free does not mean the usual rules under the Companion Animals Act 1998 do not apply. Dogs must be kept on a lead while going to and from leash free areas and must also be under effective control (voice command) while within the off leash area. They are not allowed to harass other dogs or people and their faeces must be immediately removed by their owner/handler.
Council has adopted a leash free policy which addresses the need for extra leash free areas. In order to provide the benefits for leash free area use, Council does need to place them in areas where they will be used on a regular basis by the surrounding residents and visitors. Some people may not have access to vehicles and in most cases pets are banned from public transport. Whist these pet owners can exercise their dog in the local area in which they live they are not afforded the opportunity to socialise their dog/s with others. The strategic placement of leash free areas assists in the responsible keeping of healthy happy animals which, among other benefits, helps to reduce the amount of attacks.
Parramatta City Council will continue to upgrade leash free areas. Such upgrades may include clear and consistent signage, poo bins, poo bag holders, water drinking troughs and fences. However, fences may not necessarily a necessity if the location is right. As stated previously many of dogs that frequent off leash areas are well trained and respond to the commands of their owners’ voice. It is recommended that as a precaution, new comers and puppies will need to visit an off leash area that is either fenced or not located near a main or busy road.
· Reduce dog attacks and unsociable behaviour
· Reduce nuisance animals i.e. barking or escaping dogs from boredom
· Continue to educate our community
· Promote that more exercise for dog/s and owner/s creates a healthier community
· Promote positive image of Council as being pet friendly
· To continue to upgrade leash free areas as required so that they remain user friendly
· To monitor and patrol current leash free areas for educational purposes – i.e. speak directly with dog owners.
· To research and investigate potential new off leash areas both based on current usage rates and other practical locations where there is a high dog population and a dog exercise/walking culture.
This Management Plan will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure compliance with statutory requirements and current trends in companion animal management.
Income received for the lifetime registration of companion animals in the Parramatta LGA will be dedicated solely to the delivery of the objectives outlined in this plan.