Dogs allowed: Park lifts ban on dogs

Howard Benkenstein, one of the applicants in the case, celebrates the court victory at the weekend by walking his dog Rosy. He became the first legal permit holder. Photo: Supplied.

The Pretoria High Court has given residents the green light to once again walk their dogs in the Faerie Glen Nature Reserve.

This reverses a ban on dogs in the reserve, imposed by the City of Tshwane from 1 January 2017. Residents and FFGNR opposed the ban, saying the City had not conducted a proper public participation process.

Two ratepayers/park users, as well as volunteer organisation, Friends of Faerie Glen Nature Reserve (FFGNR), launched a legal challenge, asking the court to set the ban aside.

Dogs on leashes had for decades been allowed into the area, before it was formally proclaimed a nature reserve in 2014. Until then, it had been a public open space.

The ban had been imposed by the City of Tshwane in August 2016, in terms of nature conservation regulations under the 1983 Nature Conservation Ordinance.

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But the applicants pointed out that internal rules and regulations administered by the management authority (CoT) did not require a total ban on domestic animals.

Animals could be allowed under a permit system, similar to that used in the Table Mountain National Park.

Previous environmental assessments compiled for the Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, that included public participation, had accepted that dogs had a low environmental impact and should be included as a recreational activity.

The solution FFGNR proposed was that dogs be allowed into the nature reserve, but under the strict measures of a permit system.

The City of Tshwane decided not to contest the court action, and at the hearing on Friday, the court made it a legal order that dogs should be allowed into the nature reserve.

FFGNR chairperson Louise Kritzinger this week welcomed the court ruling, but sounded a warning.

“Although this can be considered a victory for dogs and dog walkers alike, it does not mean that ill-disciplined dog walkers can return to their old ways of allowing their dogs to run off leash and leaving dog excreta behind.”

Enforcement of rules had always proved to be problematic, said Kritzinger.

FFGNR would strictly monitor the situation to ensure compliance with rules and by-laws.

“In collaboration with the City of Tshwane Nature Conservation and Metropolitan Police, we want to work together to ensure that the by-laws on public amenities are enforced within the reserve,” she said.

The Tshwane Metropolitan Police Department had agreed to assist in enforcing the by-laws, she said.

Any member of the public could also lay a complaint with the TMPD against any dog walker not complying with the by-laws

“We need to send out a strong message to members of the public that ill-discipline towards these by-laws will not be tolerated.”

The FFGNR have worked hard to retain “what should be regarded as a privilege to walk our dogs in a conservation area within the confines of a busy suburb”.

Faerie Glen Nature Reserve is not a dog park and should be treated accordingly, she said.

There are no off-leash zones, and dog-walkers must keep their dogs on a leash at all times.

Only permit-holders will be granted access to the reserve with their dogs

The dog-permit system will be administered by City of Tshwane’s nature conservation department.

Permit application forms are available from the cashier at the nature reserve.

Dogs will only be allowed in once the permit has been issued, which City of Tshwane aims to do within three days of the application.

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Permits will be free of charge at this stage, but the City plans to introduce a charge from July next year.

The permits set out strict conditions for walking with dogs.

No more than two dogs per person are allowed.

Dogs must be on a leash at all times.

Dog excreta must be picked up and disposed of in the bins provided.

FFGNR have provided free plastic bags for this.

Dog and owner must stay on existing paths and the owner must keep dogs at a fair distance from game.

Bitches on heat may not be brought into the park.

The permit must be with the dog walker at all times; must be produced on request; and it is not transferable.

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Vivien van der Sandt

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