The new proposals for dogs on beaches in the South Peninsula have been very poorly publicized, with only two short public information sessions – one in Muizenberg and one in Simonstown. This is insufficient public participation for what is a very important issue. Even at this late stage, Council could rectify the situation to some extent by putting up displays of the proposals in libraries and other points near the beaches concerned, and extending the period for comment to the end of May.
There are naturally strong feelings about dogs on beaches. Some of us are strongly in support, and others violently opposed. But there is one point which both sides must consider very carefully – the question of safety and security.
When the Silvermine Wetlands were being developed ten years ago, the City Council wanted to ban dogs from the area. A number of us who were involved in the process were strongly opposed to any ban on the grounds that the regular presence of dog-walkers with dogs would make the Wetlands a safer area for cyclists, hikers, joggers, mothers with babies in prams, and so on. The South African Police were asked for their opinion, and were also opposed to a ban on dogs for the same reason. The Police pointed to the situation on Fish Hoek Beach, reporting that crime, anti-social behaviour and petty theft were fairly common along the Jager Walk and the section of the beach where dogs were banned, but virtually non-existent where dogs were permitted on the rest of the beach to Clovelly.
The Council eventually accepted that there should be no ban in the Wetlands, with the result that although the Wetlands walks are in places very secluded, there has been very little crime. It is generally safe for people to walk there, with of course the exercise of natural caution. The same applies to Fish Hoek Beach from the lighthouse to Clovelly
Those who want to have dogs banned from our beaches, or permitted only on leashes, should reconsider very carefully. If dogs are banned or allowed only on leashes in restricted areas, fewer dog owners will use the beaches to exercise their pets, and there will undoubtedly be a deterioration in safety and security as a result. This will affect everyone – youngsters wanting to surf, tourists, bathers…….all of us. Obviously dogs must not be permitted in certain areas, but the current proposals go too far.
Dog owners and other users of the beach are strongly urged to give this very careful thought, and write to Council to record their opposition to the proposals. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
And no – I don’t have a dog !