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Lake Macquarie City Council is poised to launch a new Dogs in Open Space Strategy, with new figures revealing canine companionship has soared across the city since COVID-19.
Section Manager Community Assets Brendan Callander said the number of dogs registered in Lake Macquarie had risen by more than 10,000 since 2018.
“We’re now home to more than 93,000 registered dogs – the second-highest number of any local government area in NSW,” he said.
“Growing numbers coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing urban density and smaller backyards has led to a surge in demand for open spaces where people can exercise and socialise their dogs.”
“At the moment we have 29 off-leash areas at beaches, parks and reserves throughout the city.”
Council is seeking public input to develop the strategy and gain an understanding of how dog off-leash areas should be used.
Lake Mac dog owner Dominic May is one of thousands of locals who use existing off-leash areas to exercise and socialise their pets.
"We love visiting the areas that are enclosed, because we know it's safe for our golden retriever, Arlo, and for other dogs he's playing with,” Mr May said.
Fellow dog owner Glenn Brockman also supported the introduction of new off-leash areas.
“Our favourite thing is that our dogs Camden and Brixton, feel safe in the space, to exercise, roam freely and socialise with all dogs big and small,” Mr Brockman said.
Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser said feedback is welcome from dog and non-dog owners to find out what would work well in the area.
“The strategy will aim to provide safe and inviting spaces for dogs and owners, while balancing the recreational needs of the wider community,” Cr Fraser said.
“Companion animals are an important part of their families’ lives and we need to provide facilities for them to be exercised freely where possible, practical and safe to do so.”
Feedback received will be coupled with analysis and best practice research to develop a draft framework for the Dogs in Open Space Strategy.
Once adopted, the strategy will guide Council for the next decade.
Residents can have their say through an online survey and online map, while hard copy feedback forms can be found at all Lake Mac libraries.
In-person pop-up sessions will also be held in early March.
Go to shape.lakemac.com.au/dogs for more information.