Small dogs deserve better, Deborah Mills says.
Dr Mills has established an online petition urging the Waitaki District Council to establish a small breed dog park at Awamoa Park East in Oamaru.
She has three rough-coated Jack Russells and, after many run-ins with other dogs, she was concerned they would be injured or killed by a larger dog if mixing in a dog park.
“You just can’t risk it,” she said.
“It would only take the tiniest little bite and they would be gone.”
Instead, she opted to stay away from the fenced Fenwick Dog Park, walking her dogs on her large property instead.
But other small dogs were missing out, and so were their owners, she said.
Awamoa Park East was already a dog-friendly area, but did not have fencing she said.
She wanted to see it transformed into an area exclusive to 10kg breeds to socialise and interact safely.
In 2015, she and her partner helped establish a small dog park in Dunedin, six months after moving there from Australia.
Proving to be popular, the Dunedin City Council had since established another.
Having lived in Waitaki for three years, Dr Mills wanted to see the council here do the same.
“The council does not realise it is an important infrastructure.
“We all pay the same rates.”
If money was a barrier to creating the space, she was happy to help in fundraising efforts.
Council regulatory manager Andrew Bardsley said the council was open to the idea of a small dog park, but it could not happen overnight and the right processes needed to be followed.
Creating a small breed area required changes to the current Dog Control Bylaw, because it would exclude large dogs and would need to be enforced, he said.
This could be possible during the bylaw review in 2024, during which time the council would undergo public consultation.
“This is definitely something we will look at, but we can’t just go and make a change arbitrarily overnight,” Mr Bardsley said.
“We need to make sure this is what the majority of the public want.”
But Dr Mills did not want to wait three years, and she hoped to gather enough community support through her petition to effect change sooner.
As of Wednesday, she had 101 signatures on her petition.
Mr Bardsley said this accounted for less than 2% of Waitaki’s dog owner population.
“It’s council and ratepayer land. We can’t just arbitrarily fence a small part of it for small dogs at the expense of all dogs,” he said.
If the petition did not work, Dr Mills and her partner considered holding a “small dog rally” at the park.
The “Small Breed Dog Only Park for Oamaru, Waitaki District, NZ” petition is online at change.org.