THE City of Greater Geelong council says strong support from the community is behind its decision to now allow dogs in the equestrian centre at the Barwon Heads Village Park when no horses are present.
The council agreed on the amended dog controls – which will allow dogs to be off-leash and supervised – at their meeting last week.
Out of 304 responses received from the community during the engagement process, 82 per cent of respondents said they supported an increase in off-leash spaces in the park.
The equestrian centre within the park was the most common space where respondents wanted dogs to be allowed off-leash.
Community members were able to participate in the survey online as well as in-person, with city officers visiting Barwon Heads Village Park throughout January.
A change.org petition to allow dogs off-leash within the equestrian grounds also had 485 signatures by January 31.
As part of the engagement process, the city directly communicated with the Barwon Heads & District Pony Club to determine the potential impacts of changed dog controls on their use of the site.
It was found the impact would be minimal for the club, which typically uses the pavilion and grounds within the park once a month.
Dogs are required to be on leash when horses are present at the site.
Given the overwhelming support for the amendment, councillors agreed to authorise the necessary amendment of the city’s Dog Controls in Public Places Policy.
Geelong mayor Stephanie Asher said it was a pleasing result for the Barwon Heads community.
“This is a great example of council listening to the community, and after careful consultation and consideration, we are able to make changes to better meet local needs,” Cr Asher said.
“There is clearly a need for people living on the southern Bellarine to be able to exercise their dogs during the day in off-leash areas.
“In addition to this issue, which was a result of a decision that suited the community and equestrian club, we are hearing from a lot of people about the restrictive dog orders on the beaches, which have had a big impact on the regular dog walking community.”