Is park dog ban fair?

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Should dogs be allowed in Australia's national parks?
Should dogs be allowed in Australia's national parks?

The banning of dogs from virtually all Australian national parks and conservation areas is an issue that has long got grey nomads – from both sides of the fence – hot under the proverbial collar.

And, it seems, there are an increasing number of pet owners who are choosing to flout the rules – despite the threat of fines of up to $300.

At Glenrock State Conservation Area near Newcastle in New South Wales, for example, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has recently received numerous complaints about dogs, both on and off leashes.

“When we become aware there is a problem in a certain area, rangers will go there to enforce the rules, talk to people, and fine persistent offenders,” an NPWS spokesperson told the GNT. “They won’t go peeking into caravan windows to check for pets but we would hope grey nomads would do the right thing.”

Many pet-owning travellers are upset that they are effectively barred from some of the country’s most beautiful places, claiming that if their dogs are kept under control there shouldn’t be a problem. Some rely on their dogs for companionship and recent research has shown grey nomads who travel with pets have fewer chronic health conditions.

“Some people say that a road trip just isn’t complete without a canine companion,” said Susie Willis from the Petcare Information and Advisory Service. “But it is important to plan ahead if your four legged friend is travelling with you.”

Recent moves to allow more quad biking and horse riding in national parks has further inflamed the debate. However, there will be no parks policy re-think.

“Of course, everybody thinks they have well-behaved dogs and they are responsible owners but somebody’s dogs are running off the leash,” said an NPWS spokesperson. “And not every grey nomad is travelling with a Chihuahua … some have hunting dogs and they can do a lot of damage, as well as breeding with dingoes.”

The NPWS is ramping up its educational campaign and will make its ‘no-dogs allowed’ signs clearer. It says dogs leave a scent that can frighten wildlife, and their faeces may carry disease. It also says dogs may interfere with the enjoyment of other park visitors.

“We understand that it can be an inconvenience to some grey nomads,” an NPWS spokesperson said. “But there is a bigger picture of conservation here.”

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