21 Dec 2023

Animal control officers out in force at West Coast beaches in Auckland

From Checkpoint, 5:35 pm on 21 December 2023
The proposed changes would extend the season ban length, but allow dogs before 10am and after 7pm.

Photo: 123RF

Animal Control officers will be out in force at Auckland's West Coast beaches this summer making sure nobody is breaking the rules, and that the returning penguins are protected.

Auckland Council animal management team leader Aaron Neary told Checkpoint the bad behaviour was more from the owners rather than the dogs.

Piha is one of the region's worst beaches for bad behaviour from dog owners, and this summer is expected to be busier.

"We have a lot of protected wildlife in the area, we've got the dotterels, the kororā / little penguins, nesting shorebirds, and seals," Neary said.

He said it was about keeping beachgoers and the protected wildlife safe.

"Most of Piha is actually prohibited for dogs. There are on-lead and even off-lead areas, so it is fair for everybody. People with their dogs can enjoy the beaches, but we do want to make sure that the dogs are kept off the prohibited areas, under control in the off-leash areas, and on-leash where they are supposed to be on leash."

Incidents included reports of dogs where they should not be to full-on attacks, Neary said.

Through the years there have been incidents of dogs attacking dogs and people. Overall dog attacks had been increasing across Tāmaki Makaurau, he said.

"In more recent years it has just been finding penguins dead. Penguins with injuries consistent with the dog attack, and dotterels abandoning their nests because of disturbance from dogs."

But it has been hardly an easy feat dealing with owners.

"Unfortunately, there is a sense of entitlement these days. The response that we get from a lot of gold owners when we speak to them is less than desirable but with this particular effort along the West Coast beaches, the local communities do seem generally supportive and a lot of the dog owners we've spoken to are actually quite glad to e informed of why the rules exist.

"It's amazing how many people are unaware of the wildlife there, particularly the penguins that are returning to Piha. They are generally quite excited to hear about that."

Enforcement action would be taken against people who were blatantly or willingly ignoring rules, or were repeat offenders, Neary said.