Mundaring councillors defer decision on letting dogs off leash in Railway Reserves trail


Dog owners in Darlington are calling for the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail to become a designated exercise area for dogs.
Dog owners in Darlington are calling for the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail to become a designated exercise area for dogs.

Mundaring Shire councillors have failed to agree on whether dogs should be allowed off leash on the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail that stretches from Bellevue to Wooroloo.

This followed nearly two hours of deputations and debate on Tuesday night.

Officers had recommended dogs be kept on a leash at all times along the 60km heritage trail, but councillors were eventually unanimous in their decision that the item be re-listed for a future council meeting.

The officers’ report presented to the council said allowing dogs to be kept off leash along the trail posed an unacceptable risk to users.

“While six dog attacks were reported from 2014 to 2017, it would not be unreasonable to assume that a greater number of attacks occurred but were unreported,” the report said.

“It is reasonable to mitigate this risk by requiring dogs be kept on a leash while using the trail.”

Darlington resident Trea Wiltshire said in 35 years of walking daily along the trail she had never seen an incident involving dogs.

“I don’t have a dog but I love seeing families walking dogs, owners running alongside their dogs, toddlers on trikes, horses and bike riders all making great use of one of Mundaring’s great assets,” she said.

“My evening walk past Darlington Oval let’s me check out kids being coached, and dogs and people of all ages socialising and exercising.

“I’m always impressed that, on this stretch of green, the junior sports folk and the doggie club coexist so amenably.

“I fail to see the logic of a regulation that will inevitably multiply the number of off-leash dogs on an oval where sport is played daily — increasing the likelihood of incidents — when we have this amazing uncongested trail on our doorstep.”

Fellow resident Philip Daniels said officers were being over- cautious.

“We have had six attacks on the trail over a three-year period,” he said.

“When you consider that six out of 453 dog attacks across the Shire occurred on the trail, that’s 1.3 per cent of the total number of attacks in the shire.

“It would be a shame to overreact and cause the vast majority of people who do the right thing to be penalised for the few that don’t.

“I have been told many times over that owners will continue to walk their dogs along the trail, unrestrained but under effective control, regardless of the threat of fines, and in fact will refuse to pay the fines.

“Think of the resources required to pursue these matters through court with our ratepayers.”

Cr Pauline Clark said the proposal would change the lifestyle of residents.

“I walked my dog Boots for 15 years along the trail with no leash,” she said.

“We need to leave the bridle trail as it has always been and leave the responsibility with the dog owners to do the right thing.”

“Make the trail a designated exercise area as the status quo is now.

“If there is a problem then address it then.”

Chief executive Jonathan Throssell said currently dogs must already be on a leash on the heritage trail.

Under the Dog Act 1976 local governments must specify public places that are designated exercise areas for dogs as well as prohibited areas.