Dogs may be banned from Hutt park

NICHOLAS BOYACK
Last updated 10:06 27/11/2012

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The days for dogs on Avalon Park may be numbered.

Hutt City Council is planning to turn the park into a major regional attraction, installing new features for children and families.

The park, including the main playground area, had been a designated Dog Exercise Area. When councillors stripped that designation last August, dogs were effectively banned from the park.

Central Ward Committee member Alison McKone challenged the ban, arguing there should have been consultation with dog owners.

She believes the council did not intend to banish dogs from the entire park and was only seeking to ban them from play areas.

A memo from parks manager Bruce Hodgins to last month's meeting of the policy committee supported that view and sought to revoke the ban and allow leashed dogs back.

But the committee called for a report from animal control manager Les Dalton.

He told councillors last week that he is strongly opposed to dogs on Avalon Park.

Dog legislation specifically requires the council to make sure children are safe from dogs around play areas.

Avalon Park is a popular play area and dogs on leads are still a risk to children, he said.

"I do not care what anyone says: having leashed dogs where children are playing is not a good mix."

A dog on a lead can still be a threat and the safest way to avoid trouble is to ban all dogs, he said.

Compared to other cities in New Zealand, Hutt City has a "huge" number of dog exercise areas, including one very close to the park.

Park manager Bruce Hodgins called for a "pragmatic" approach.

Banning dogs from Avalon Park could set a dangerous precedent and he said the park is popular with dog owners.

"Why does this not mean that [dogs are banned at] sports grounds and [other] parks where children go to play."

Mr Hodgins said he favoured lifting the ban, until the council took another look at the issue.

Mr Dalton said the council could not afford to take the risk.

The committee agreed to remove Avalon Park from the schedule of areas where dogs were banned and to review the situation.

To reinstate the ban, the council will have to go through a public consultation process.

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