Shire of Denmark council to respond to petition calling for revised off-leash dog area at Prawn Rock Channel

Isabel VieiraAlbany Advertiser
Prawn Rock Channel dog area
Camera IconPrawn Rock Channel dog area Credit: Shire of Denmark

Shire of Denmark councillors are set to respond this month to a petition from dog owners calling for an expanded off-leash dog exercise zone in the Prawn Rock Channel area.

The petition follows the Shire’s decision at a council meeting in May 2021 to prohibited dogs from an area stretching along the beach at Prawn Rock Channel and Ocean Beach.

The policy changes aimed to give migratory shore birds and other wildlife more protection, with areas such as the northern sand flat at Wilson Inlet prohibited to dogs.

At a council meeting on November 17, local resident Karen Winer presented a petition with 412 signatures from fellow dog owners to the Shire during public question time.

The petition called on the Shire to revisit the old off-leash dog exercise area outlined in the resolution of the November 2014 council meeting, which retained more of the Prawn Rock Channel area as an off-leash dog spot.

The petition flagged community concerns about the current area dog exercise area being disproportionate to the “high usage” and the area being of “great significance” to dog owners.

In an officer report about the petition to be considered at the March 15 council meeting, Shire projects manager Damian Schwarzbach said Denmark’s increasing population was bringing a “higher risk of conflict between users of all public areas”.

“All users of public spaces will have to compromise to ensure social sustainability and best meet the whole community’s needs,” Mr Schwarzbach said.

“The current dog policy and Ocean to Channel Concept Plan aim to present a balanced outcome where all stakeholders are accommodated.”

The petition also stated the area at Prawn Rock Channel was “the only accessible, flat landscape with safe water for all members of the dog community”.

“By minimising it, the Shire has discriminated against those in the community and their dogs who cannot access other ‘like’ areas,” according to the petition.

There are several alternative dog exercise areas in Denmark such as Lights Beach, Sheila Hill Walk Trial and Smith Brother Park.

“Unfortunately, our landscape in Denmark is not always user-friendly for people of all ages, mobility and abilities,” Mr Schwarzbach said.

“Our community’s high value on preserving our pristine environment dictates that we avoid taking interventions that will damage our environment.

“There are a number of flat, dog off-leash areas in Denmark which serve as alternatives for people who cannot access our coastal dog exercise areas.”

The petition also claimed that the area was of “great significance to the fabric of the dog community” for dog owner’s mental and physical health.

“It is also beloved by our community because of its unique wildlife and environmental values,” Mr Schwarzbach said.

“The Shire has a responsibility to both and has done its best to achieve a balanced outcome.”

The current dog area policy will be in place for the next eight month.

Mr Schwarzbach has recommended implementing a biennial review of the policy.

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