By ALLISON HORE
Dog owners in the Inner West are calling for areas of Callan Park to be set officially aside for off-leash dogs when the detailed designs are put together for the precinct.
Officially, dogs are only allowed on-leash across Callan park’s 60-hectares of green space.
Owners are allowed to let their dogs off-leash on the park’s three sporting fields. However, most of the time these fields are being used by sporting clubs and are off limits to dogs.
Despite the official rules, the community has been using the park as an off-leash play area for decades. This use of the parklands is “overwhelmingly accepted” and meets the “needs and desires of the community,” say Callan Park Dog Lovers, the group behind the petition.
They say off-leash areas for dogs can be beneficial for the physical and mental health of both dog owners and their dogs.
“Exercising dogs Off-Leash enriches their lives, ensures they learn to socialise, and helps them to be calm and quiet at home during the day,” they said.
“Many older Australian’s elect to own dogs to ward off loneliness and find socialising in Callan Park with dog owners an essential part of their well-being, especially in a COVID-19 world.”
“A ridiculous solution”
According to the NSW Companion Animals register there are over 35,000 dogs living within the Inner West local government area and 42 percent of households own a dog.
But Inner West dog owners were enraged in 2019 when the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage moved to formally prohibit off-leash dogs across most of Callan Park. Responding to the decision at the time, Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne called it “a ridiculous solution to a non-existent problem.”
“For many years the public has been able to walk their dogs off leash in Callan Park,” he said.
“Suddenly, and without any community consultation whatsoever, the Office of Environment and Heritage has put up signage advising dog walkers that they can no longer let their dogs off their leashes.”
However, the Inner West Council decided that it would not be enforcing the NSW Government’s off-leash ban, stating the “sudden change is unnecessary and upsetting to the park users.”
“Council has no legal requirement to enforce this off-leash ban and we won’t be doing the State Government’s dirty work here.”
Member for Balmain Jamie Parker says the NSW government has already committed to creating a new Companion Animals Management Plan for the park. He encouraged anyone keen to can the formal ban on off-leash dogs to get behind the petition.
“Callan Park has to be a place we can all share but if you’d like to see more off-leash dog areas there, you can sign the petition using one of their handy QR posters which are out and about now,” he said.