August 2 - 8, 2020: Issue 460


Proposal for Dogs to be allowed into wildlife-family areas on pittwater's public beaches 

South Mona Vale Beach, Monday July 14, 2020 - NB: golden retriever already given access to the beach by its owner, 11am. Photo by A J Guesdon.
North Palm Beach at the end of Autumn 2020 - photo by A J Guesdon.

The three former Pittwater Council councillors who voted against fighting for retaining Pittwater Council, a move that led, days later, to the forced amalgamation of this council despite a clear message from residents that they wanted Pittwater’s autonomy to be retained, have this week submitted and then voted for a Motion to allow dogs onto Pittwater beaches, and consequently for the destruction of wildlife, the environment and public safety for families that follows via dog attacks and dog faeces and urine pollution according to residents.  [1.]  [2.]

The areas proposed are at North Palm Beach adjacent to the dunes that run into Barrenjoey National Park and at South Mona Vale Beach, adjacent to the current off-leash area that was Robert Dunn Reserve but now stinks of dog urine and is permanently pocked with dog faeces. 

Mona Vale Dunes has nesting Willie Wagtails and Eastern Whipbirds and has been visited by Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and ground dwelling Brown Quail. On the shore terns have been seen for years, and recently one resident reported seeing a Fairy Penguin, a species that once nested in the area south of here, at Turimetta Beach. 

At Palm Beach the list of recorded wildlife permanently present, or visiting through annual migrations, is longer and as shown by past reports, including one in January of this year, turtles will come ashore to lay their eggs on our beaches and seals have also chosen beaches along Pittwater's ocean sandy rims to rest. 

Numerous studies have recorded the presence of dogs causes wildlife to move away, temporarily or permanently reducing the amount of available habitat in which to feed, breed and rest. Animals become less active during the day to avoid dog interactions. Furthermore, the scent of dogs repels wildlife and the effects remain after the dogs are gone. Wildlife become alarmed and cease their routine activities. This increases the amount of energy they use, while simultaneously reducing their opportunities to feed. Repeated stress causes long-term impacts on wildlife including reduced reproduction and growth, suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to disease and parasites. These same studies show dogs transmit diseases (such as canine distemper and rabies) to and from wildlife and that loose dogs kill wildlife. Their presence in these places also has human disease and water quality impacts - Dog waste pollutes water and transmits harmful parasites and diseases to people. 

One study near Sydney found that dog walking in parklands and national parks reduced the abundance and species richness of birds, even when dogs were restrained on leads. Another states predation was the most commonly reported impact of dogs on wildlife and that dogs are in the number three spot after cats and rodents as the world’s most damaging invasive mammalian predators, listing Australia as one of the 'hotspots' for wildlife destruction by dogs. [3.] [4.]

Similarly, numerous studies have also shown the benefits of a companion animal. According to the Australian Veterinary Association, the benefits of this bond include “companionship, health and social improvements and assistance for people with special needs”. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention names lowered blood pressure and reduction in loneliness as just two possible benefits and anyone who has ever had a dog as a pet and lost them genuinely grieves for their passed furry mate.

This brings up the questions; - why isn't this love of animal species extended to those wildlife species that live in these areas by these dog-loving people and why do some humans continue to believe they have a right to usurp, disregard and destroy these others species' homes, the children they bear and pursue what is now termed 'inter-generational theft' whereby some species will be extinct in the urban areas and so not seen by those not yet born. They will not have the opportunity to be present with them, to witness these birds, marsupials, amphibians and reptiles living alongside them.

The impact can also come at a huge financial cost. Although the figures for volunteer wildlife carers have not yet been quantified as so many of these volunteers fund the rehabilitation costs for our native wildlife from their own pockets, examples of how passionate bird watchers spend big to see rare birds that come to our shores in the areas they are is well documented. They don't want to watch a video, they don't want to look at a photo, they don't want to listen to a recording of its song, they want to be present with that wildlife species itself. 

Other costs are those incurred by councils as they must employ rangers to ensure the laws are being obeyed, studies and reports for new dog parks must be paid for, out of the pockets of all ratepayers, the areas set aside must be maintained, regular emptying of 'doggie doo' bins and fencing to prevent them running on roads or into wildlife areas is also a cost.

Finding areas for larger dogs whose owners have taken on an animal without owning an adequate backyard or time for their care has become a polarising issue in the community. More people will bring more dogs into higher-density communities and then demand that space be set aside for them, areas that are then lost to the rest of the community and its human and wildlife residents. 

Readers state the dog lobbyists in our area have been broadcasting on social media that more dogs off leash on beaches will follow, naming South Avalon Beach as one they are currently having meetings over, among others.

‘’Council has been hijacked by dog lobbyists…’’ one email to Pittwater Online News stated this week

‘’Time to pay the lobbyists for their members handing out ‘how to vote’ cards at the council election for the council no one wanted.’’ another opined.

‘’This is the group that thinks all wildlife should move over the water to the Kuring Gai Chase National Park if it doesn’t want to be destroyed by dogs...’’ another stated.

These strong reactions are premature as council staff will now prepare a report on the feasibility of these first two named areas and then the community will get to have a say – hopefully without the ‘vote as many times as you like’ mechanism used for the Station Beach Dog Furore wherein some dog lobby members boasted of having voted several hundred times each – multiplying an individual into a larger crowd and undermining correct process and the principals behind any vote as a valid reflection of community opinion.

However, the growing numbers of dogs off-leash where they’re not meant to be, the growing records of colonies of wildlife being ‘no longer present’ in the places this is happening and where wildlife once was, along with multiple requests to council to take action being met with a few visits and then letters from council stating ‘’this matter has been actioned and completed’’ and a return within that time and afterwards of dogs off-leash in those same areas, would seem to indicate council is unable or unwilling to do meet their responsibilities and only complaints to the State Government’s Office of Local Government may stem the loss of public areas and halt the destruction.

Identifying areas where dogs may run as fast as they like off-leash without encroaching on or killing the wildlife that already lives there or put at jeopardy the safe enjoyment of these public spaces by the humans that live here too will not be an easy task. Nominating areas where it is known wildlife and residents will be impacted and put at risk begs the question; what is the real intent?

The Grey Kangaroo by Alan Marshall, one of Australia’s best and most beloved writers, who loved horses, dogs and adored Australian wildlife, gives an insight into what can be expected to be witnessed by residents and visitors to Pittwater – only it will be turtles, seals, penguins and endangered shorebirds migrating thousands of kilometres to our shores from the northern hemisphere and those birds and other wildlife species that live here that will be destroyed – along with their homes. This is what happens when you allow off-leash dogs into wildlife areas and the places where the children of all species play:

The Grey Kangaroo
Of Caulfield

She knew the old prospector. From a cleared patch on the hillside she often noticed him wash-ins for gold in the creek that ran through the valley. 
   Sometimes he stopped his swirling and sat on the bank Watching her while he filled his pipe. 
   He had known her for two years. She was his friend. She was smaller than her companions, and differed from them in color. She was grey; they were almost black — "Scrubbers," the old man called them. 
Each morning the creaking of his cart as he followed the winding track round the mountain side, would cause them, to stand erect for a moment, nostrils twitching. 
   But they did not fear him. He was one with the carol of the magpies and the gums. 
When his "Whoa there !" stayed the old black horse, they knew he only wished to look at them. They continued feeding. Their movements were like music — rhythmical— an undulating rise and fall of symmetrical bodies against a background of slender trees. 
   Occasionally they stopped and, sitting upright, looked back at him, a look of intense interest, of watchfulness. 
Their flanks, wet with the dew from sweet-smelling leaves, glistened in the morning sun. They seemed like children of the trees. 
   There was a day when the old prospector approached within a few yards of the grey kangaroo. She awaited his coming, standing with head extended, eyes half-closed, nostrils working with curiosity. He remained motionless, and they regarded each other. 
   She turned and hopped slowly away from him. She moved with grace and dignity, despite her burden. She carried a Joey. 

A MILE from the spot where the old prospector worked, two boys were cutting timber. Their axe heads glittered in the sun. When for a moment the eager steel poised motionless above their heads, the muscles on their uncovered backs stood out in little, smooth, brown hills. Their skin had the unblemished gloss of egg shells. 
   Beside the log on which they worked lay a blue kangaroo dog. His powerful, rib-lined chest rose and fell. His narrow loins had the delicacy of a stem. Suddenly lie lifted his head and, turning, bit at the smooth hair on his shoulder to ease an irritation. His lips, pushed up and back, revealed red gums and the smooth, Ivory daggers of his teeth. He snuffled and worked his jaws. His jowls flowed with saliva. He expelled a deep breath and lay back again. Files hovered Over his head. He snapped and moved restlessly. 
   The boys called him Springer — Springer, the killer. In the shade from surrounding trees lay other dogs. They formed a pack, the existence of which was due to the boys' love of hunting. They had no beauty of line, as had Springer. They were a rabble. They barked at nights and howled at the moon. They ran down rabbits with savage joy and, in the pack, were relentless in their pursuit. They looked to Springer to bring down the larger game. They were content to be in at the kill. 
   One of them, Boofer, a half-bred sheep dog, rose and stretched herself. She yawned with a whine and walked into the sunlight. She stood there a moment meditatively. She looked back over her shoulder. A flying chip fell beside her. She sniffed It. She was bored. She turned and trotted off among the trees.

SOME time later her excited barking caused the other dogs to jump to their feet They stood with their necks erect, their heads moving alertly from side to side.
   Boofer tore past, some distance away, running at speed, her nose to the ground. The dogs yelped with delight and, scattering dry gum leaves and crashing through scrub, sped after her. 
The boys stopped work and watched. 
   "There they are up on the hill !" cried one. "Look, quick, look !" 
He pointed. 
He put two fingers to his mouth and whistled shrilly. 
   Springer, having disregarded the yelping of the pack, leaped to his feet at the sound, as to a clarion call. 
He sprang forward with short, stiff bounds, craning his neck as if to see over obstacles. He stopped and grew tense, one forefoot raised in the air. His panting had ceased. He looked eagerly from side to side. 
   The boy who had whistled jumped from the log. He ran to the blue dog and, grasping his head between his hands, half lifted him from the ground. The dog's neck was stretched and rolls of skin half closed his eyes. 
   "See 'em. See 'em," he whispered excitedly.
   But no responsive quickening of muscle stirred the dog. The boy ran forward dragging Springer with him. 
Then Springer saw. With a mighty bound he parted the boy's hands. He leaped with a terrific releasing of energy, doubling like a spring until, having attained speed, he moved with effortless beauty. 
The boy sprang again to the log. He stood with his lips slightly parted, eyes wide, his hands clenched by his sides. 
"Boy!" he breathed to his companion. ''Look at him!''

UPON the hillside the mob of  kangaroos had heard the yapping of Boofer on their trail. The little grey kangaroo lifted her head quickly. For a long, tense moment she stood in frozen immobility looking down into the valley. Her joey, nibbling at the grass some distance from her, jumped in sudden panic and made for his mother with single-purposed speed. With her paws she held her pouch open like a sugar bag. He tumbled in headlong, his kicking legs projecting a moment before he disappeared. 
   How safe he felt in there: how secure from dogs with teeth and men with guns. His little heart, swift-beating at the excited barking of the pack, became even and content. He turned and his head popped forth with childish curiosity. 
   His mother was already on the move. The does were in haste; the old men were more leisured. 
With a clamor the pack broke through the trees. Ahead of them like the point of a spear, Springer ran silently. 
   The kangaroos leaped into frantic speed, but before they had gained their top, Springer was among them and they scattered wildly. Perhaps It was because of her conspicuous color, perhaps because she was so very small, the kangaroo dog singled her out from her companions and set after her relentlessly. 
And, recognising his leadership, the pack followed, eagerly, joyfully, the hills echoing their exultation. 

SHE had intended making up the hill to thicker timber, but, as if suddenly realising her desperate plight, and the heavy responsibilities of motherhood, she turned her flight towards the old prospector. 
   Through the fragrant hazel, past the mottled silver-wattles, by sad tree ferns and across chip-strewn clearings she sped; and behind her Springer cleared as she the fallen trunks, the scattered limbs, swerved as she did from the pointed stakes, flew wombat holes and trickling water courses with equal ease. He rode the air like Death Itself.
   The clutch of some mimosa hampered the grey kangaroo. She lost ground. The blue dog gathered himself and sprang, but the rough takeoff spoiled his leap and he wobbled in mid-air. His teeth closed on the skin; of her shoulder, his body struck her. She staggered and collided with a sapling. The dog shot past her, scat-ring! the moist earth with tearing feet. 
   With heroic endeavor the grey kangaroo recovered her balance, and in a violent, concentrated effort, she drew away from the dog, a tattered banner of red skin draggling from her naked shoulder. 
She made for some crowded gum suckers. They brushed her as she passed. With a swift and desperate movement she tore her Joey from her pouch and flung him, almost without loss of speed, into their shelter. She turned at right angles, leading the blue dog away from him. 
   The joey, staggered to his feet and hopped away distractedly. But the following pack, with triumphant cries, bore down on him. He gave one helpless glance back at them and tried to flee. They swept over him like a wind. He was lost in their midst ...
   Their howl of triumph reached the little grey mother as she strained ahead of Springer, the killer. Their unleashed savagery, fleeing from them in bloody glee, broke upon her in waves. 

THE old prospector heard it, too, and dropping his dish, he clambered in clumsy haste from the creek. When his head and shoulders appeared over the bank, he stopped a moment with dazes eyes and open mouth watching the approach of the grey kangaroo and her pursuer. 
   He raised himself swiftly and ran towards them. His eyes were wide open, distraught. He raised his himself in the air and cried, hoarsely, "Come be'ind 'ere! Come be'ind 'ere!" 
When the grey kangaroo reached the clearing she was all but spent. The blue dog, with mouth open and silken strands of saliva blowing free raced behind her across a patch of fern; was but a length away when with painful bounds, she reached the cool sweetness of young grass.
   He made a last, terrific burst. He left the ground with all the glorious energy of a skin-clad dancer, his body modelled in clean curves of muscle. His teeth locked deep in her shoulder. His hurtling body seemed to arrest In speed as if suddenly braked. He met the ground stiff-legged and taut.

THE grey kangaroo, her head jerked downwards, spun in the air. She turned completely over. Her long tail whipped in a circle above her head. She landed with a dull crash on her back. Before the shock of her falling had released her breath, Springer was at her throat. With demoniac savagery he tore at. the soft, warm fur. With braced forelegs and tail erect, he shook her in a frenzy. 
   She kicked helplessly. 
   He sprang back, keyed for further conflict. 
   Her front paws, like little hands, quivered in unconscious supplication. She relaxed, sinking closer to the earth as to a mother.
He turned and walked away, her, panting, with red drops dripping from his running tongue. 
With half-closed eyes he watched the old prospector running towards them, his heavy, wet boots flop-flopping on the grass

TODAY'S SHORT STORY (1939, June 15). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), p. 46. Retrieved from 

Urban Kangaroos in Harrington Grove, Harrington Park, Camden Council area - Friday July 10 2020, photos by A J Guesdon. (Harrington Grove has a resident mob of kangaroos that live in the 280 hectares of land preserved in its Cumberland Plain Woodland natural state. Some joeys were seen during July 2020 among this mob. Harrington Park residents walking their dogs keep them on leash at all times.)
  1. Pittwater Councillors Passed Motion to Commence Legal Proceedings Against Forced Amalgamation Overturned Due to 'No Substance' to Grounds Raised  and Pittwater Is STILL Pittwater: Residents - Sacked Councillors Discuss Options
  2. Dog Droppings Factsheet. Ballina Shire Council. November 2014
  3. Banks, P. B., and Bryant, J. V. (2007). Four-legged friend or foe? Dog walking displaces native birds from natural areas. Biology Letters 3, 611–613.
  4. Doherty, T. S., Dickman, C. R., Glen, A. S., Newsome, T. M., Nimmo, D. G., Ritchie, E. G., Vanak, A. T., and Wirsing, A. J. (2017). The global impacts of domestic dogs on threatened vertebrates. Biological Conservation 210, 56–59.  and Young, J. K., Olson, K. A., Reading, R. P., Amgalanbaatar, S., and Berger, J. (2011). Is wildlife going to the dogs? Impacts of feral and free-roaming dogs on wildlife populations. Bioscience 61, 125–132.

Extract from 2: 

The problem with dog poo

Dog droppings pose environmental and health risks. The number of dogs in our shire increases every year and this can unfortunately result in an increase in the amount of dog droppings in public areas such as parks, footpaths and beaches.

Dog droppings contain nutrients and can be washed through the stormwater system into natural waterways including lakes, rivers and beaches. Excess nutrients in our natural waterways can affect aquatic and other wildlife. They encourage algae blooms that can lead to reduced oxygen levels in our waterways.

Health Risks

Many diseases can be passed from animals to humans, even if the animal is showing no signs of ill health. Some of these diseases may be spread by direct or indirect contact with animal faeces.

When dog faeces are left in public places people may inadvertently come into direct contact with it or it may be washed into waterways following rain bringing swimmers and other recreational water users into contact with the disease agents contained within it.

The main types of diseases that people can pick up from dogs and their faeces include salmonella, E coli, campylobacter, giardia, cryptosporidium, roundworm and ringworm.

In NSW the Companion Animals Act makes it an offence to not pick up dog faeces in a public place with a fine of $275 applicable.