By Jessica Micallef
Strict new guidelines for pet owners will be introduced in the Macedon Ranges next year.
As from January 1, 2020 all dogs must be leashed in public places except in designated off-leash areas.
From July 1, all cats will have to be indoors between sunset and sunrise.
At its meeting last week Macedon Ranges council approved a report aimed at responsible pet ownership.
Council officer Anne-Louise Linder said the recommendations were the result of extensive community feedback since November last year.
“Officers have carefully considered the needs of all residents, those who own pets and those that don’t,” she said.
“We are satisfied that the recommendations balance the needs of everyone.”
Recommendations included all dogs to be under effective control of their owner or handler in public places and for dogs to be leashed in all public places except in designated off-leash areas.
Dogs will also be prohibited from entering designated places for environmental reasons and the council will consider building a dog park.
The dog control orders will be effective from January 1, 2020.
The report also outlined a sunset to sunrise cat curfew, prohibiting cats from entering designated public places for environmental reasons and introducing complementary cat management strategies including a low cost de-sexing and micro chipping scheme to coincide with the new curfew.
Councillors agreed to defer the cat control orders to July 1, 2020 to give people the opportunity to adjust to the new requirements.
There is currently no cat curfew in place in the region and dogs are not required to be on a lead in a public place, unless an area is signed.
Presently, “dangerous” dogs are required to be on a lead at all times in a public place.
The report stated that separate surveys conducted in 2014 and 2017 showed support from residents to implement dog on and
off-leash areas and cat curfews.
More than 60 per cent of residents said yes to council designating on and off-leash areas for dogs in public places. Nearly 50 per cent of residents said yes to council introducing a cat curfew.
Cr Jennifer Anderson said she was looking forward to having more happy pet owners.
“And more happy residents that are bugged less by the straying cats and dogs … [we] encourage them to have pets but to have responsible pet ownership,” she said.
All councillors approved all recommendations in the report.