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Mitchell Shire Council to build off-leash parks, launch cat curfew campaign

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MITCHELL Shire Council will construct new fenced off-leash dog parks, launch a cat curfew education campaign, and develop an order that would see dogs required to be on a leash in almost all circumstances as part of its new Domestic Animal Management Plan 2021-25.

At the most recent council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to endorse the new plan after receiving more than 800 pieces of feedback from community consultation on pet management in the shire.

The plan will see fenced off-leash parks in Seymour and Beveridge, costing council $40,000 and $15,000 respectively, delivered in the first year of the plan, with two more in Broadford and Wallan to be delivered in 2023.

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A further one to two fenced off-leash parks will be delivered each subsequent year until 2025.

Council will make fenced off-leash parks a required inclusion for all large-scale developments as part of the planning permit approval process.

Council will also launch an education campaign about its cat curfew, which it introduced in 2019 to reduce the number of feral cats due to breeding and the toll on native wildlife.

The campaign will aim to increase cat owner awareness of the requirements and enforcement of the curfew, including promoting information about how they can safely contain their cat and help their cat to adjust to periods of confinement.

It will also conduct several cat trapping events across the lifespan of the plan.

Council will aim to increase its rehoming rate of cats and registration rate of cats and dogs, working with animal welfare organisations and launch education campaigns.

At the meeting Cr Rob Eldridge said clear themes came out of the community consultation, including concern for dogs wandering at large off-leash following a dog attack in Seymour earlier this year, where the victim was airlifted to hospital and the dog put down.

In response, council will launch a ‘dogs in public places’ campaign, promoting awareness of dog behaviour, reading a dog’s body language, owner responsibilities, and what to do to report a dog attack or dog at large.

An on-leash order will also be developed by 2025 that would require dogs to be kept on a leash at all times unless within a fenced or designated off-leash dog park.

There are currently about 8500 registered dogs in the shire, and 2200 registered cats, but only 40 per cent of impounded dogs and 10 per cent of impounded cats are registered.

Council will make it easier for new residents in the shire to swap over their registration between councils, and will run registration door knocks across the municipality, costing about $25,000 over four years.

Cr Nathan Clark thanked the community for its ‘vigorous’ participation in the consultation.

“The thing that I’m really looking forward to is the dog parks and how we’re going to roll those out through our new developments, and how we really start to look at how people live with their animals,” he said.

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