Why is a People and Dogs in Parks Plan (PDPP) needed?

We recognise that dogs play a significant role within people’s lives and are often considered to be part of the family. As well as this, dogs encourage exercise and support mental health and wellbeing of owners. We understand the need to have safe places where dogs can be exercised off-leash, particularly with the diminishing size of private backyards. We also acknowledge the right of other users to have access to open areas without having dogs invade personal space.

Broad objectives are to:

  • Balance the needs for dogs in open space with the needs of the broader community
  • Provide a diversity of opportunities for dogs in open space.
  • Provide off-leash areas that are fit for purpose.
  • Plan for off-leash areas for existing and future populations.
  • Ensure environmental values and protections of open space are retained.
  • Improve education and regulation for dogs in open space.
  • Establish standards for dog off-leash areas.

We want to hear from you!

Let us know what you'd like to see in off-leash areas.

The People and Dogs in Parks Plan (PDPP) will provide a 10-year policy and strategy framework, with recommended 4-year review points, to guide the planning and provision for dog owners and dogs in public open space.

Dog owners and their dogs are recognised as legitimate users of open space, and as with others who use open space, are expected to act responsibly and in consideration of other people.

The People and Dogs in Parks Plan will provide a consistent approach in planning for off-leash areas, with space allocated based on accessibility and demand. It will outline the policy regarding the management of dog off lead areas, review the provision of these spaces and makes recommendations for any alterations that will make these areas more appealing.

The Victorian Domestic Animals and the Local Government Acts provide LGAs with the authority to put in place regulations (‘Orders’ and Local Laws) relating to the management and control of dogs in public places.

Dogs in Yarra Ranges must be on a leash in all public space, including parks and reserves, unless the park or reserve (or site within a park or reserve) is designated for off-leash activities.

Yarra Ranges currently has 23 sites where dogs can be exercised off-leash, as well as the Parks Victoria managed site at the Olinda Precinct. You can find information about these spaces on our website Exercising your dog Yarra Ranges Council.

There are 9 sites where dogs are not permitted either on or off the leash.

In addition, dogs are not permitted:

  • on sports fields, except with the agreement of the local Committee of Management for the purposes of dog obedience training, and the timeshare agreement at Elizabeth Bridge Reserve,
  • within 20 metres of all fixed playground equipment,
  • within 20 metres of all fixed fitness equipment,
  • within 20 metres of permanent BBQ or picnic area,
  • on designated beach areas.

Regardless of whether the area is designated as on-leash or off-leash, owners are required to exercise control over their dog – via voice command, hand command, or leash no longer than 3 metres. They must also not allow the dog to worry, threaten or harass any person or animal. This is not only a Council regulation, but State Government Legislation.

Non-dog owners, those who do not wish to interact with dogs, or those who are fearful of dogs, also have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with the location of off-leash areas and to avoid these or behave accordingly in and around these areas.

1. Introducing a standards approach that will apply a hierarchy for dog off-leash areas. This will determine what type of infrastructure will be provided in the space and give users consistent expectations from location to location. Based on the implementation of a level of service approach, changes may be made to specific sites.

2. Outcomes of the Plan will review boundaries of existing off-leash areas, size, location, distribution, and accessibility. It will also seek to identify potential future sites should community need drive this.

3. We would like feedback from the community as to whether they would like to see more off-leash areas and where access to off-leash areas may be lacking - specific locations would be appreciated! We are also interested to hear what specific infrastructure the community uses or would like to see within our municipality . We want to understand what is working and what isn’t – from dog owners and non-dog owners alike.

What we have heard previously in relation to dogs in Yarra Ranges:

  • Much clearer communication is needed around dog off-leash areas to assist the community in understanding the location, function, and infrastructure available at each location; communication around the boundaries is needed on-the-ground via signage, bollards, footpath decals, and other means, and; better education overall is needed for both dog owners and non-owners, regarding etiquette, awareness of locations, and signage. Etiquette around responsible dog ownership, particularly around picking up after your dog, is needed as we have a consistently reported poop problem across our municipality!
  • Over half our community walk the dog as part of their physical exercise.
  • A significant number of our youth population are getting out and about to walk the dog – 14-25-year-olds are actually the group most likely to.
  • Dog ownership is particularly concentrated in the Urban area, where there is also a higher density of people, but similar percentages of people in the Hills, Valley, and Upper Yarra Ranges areas report walking their dog for physical exercise.
  • More females (61%) than males (53%) report walking/exercising dogs as part of their recreation. This is especially true of those under 25 years old (69% of females compared to 37% of males).
  • Linkages in the form of paths and trails, to, from, and between parks and open spaces with dedicated dog off-leash areas, are extremely important. Especially in determining whether or not people will use them. About half of all dog owners choose to actually use dedicated off-leash areas, and them being close to home is one of the main influences on this decision.
  • 56% of owners use dog off-leash areas to enable their dogs to socialise with other dogs.
  • However, 28% of owners and/or their dogs have experienced dogs not fully controlled by their owners, and 9% of owners have experienced aggressive dogs and/or their owners!
  • Dog off-leash areas have previously been ranked 11th out of 12 by the community when prioritised in terms of their importance to other park infrastructure.
    1. Cleanliness
    2. Security/safety
    3. Gardens and trees
    4. Grass maintenance
    5. Shade
    6. Toilets
    7. Paths and trails
    8. Seats and tables
    9. Playgrounds
    10. Signs
    11. Dog off-leash areas
    12. Lighting