Public participation open for dog waiting proposal

A report of dogs attacking a Cape grysbok on Park Island in July has led to a proposed rule change that would see dogs leashed while walking in the reserve.

The public has until tomorrow afternoon (Friday, September 27) to comment on a proposal by Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve manager, Kyran Wright, that he hopes will accommodate both dog walkers and wildlife.

The reserve is home to an array of wildlife, including the Cape clawless otter, water mongoose, caracal, Cape dwarf chameleon, Cape grysbok, Cape hare,angulate tortoise and more.

It was started in 1978 when 22ha along the northern shore of the vlei was proclaimed the Zandvlei Bird Sanctuary. This grew to 204ha with the proclamation of the Greater Zandvlei Estuary Nature Reserve on October 26 2006.

The Park Island section of the reserve was included in 2006 with the blessing of the Marina da Gama Association (MDGA), on condition that the zoning of Park Island continued to be for leisure and low intensity activity, including the walking of dogs kept under control.

Dog walking has been allowed on Park Island since the 1970s with few restrictions and 24/7 access. The numbers of dog walkers have since multiplied to a point where people travel by car from other suburbs and professional dog walkers arrive with up to 10 dogs each.

“Space on the island is restricted, and with no enforcement or clear rules in place, incidents between pets and wildlife are unavoidable as they share the space,” Mr Wright said.

After a water mongoose carcass was found on the island in 2018, the Friends of Park Island posted a code of conduct for dog walkers, but it was not a City of Cape Town sign (despite being approved by the management authority) and caused confusion.

Then, in July, the grysbok incidents was reported to reserve management.

“Four dogs were seen chasing an antelope through the veld, and the antelope was reportedly bleeding,” Mr Wright said.

The incident was not the worst or the only one on the island in recent times, but it showed it was necessary to do more to protect the mainly nocturnal fauna from people and their pets, Mr Wright said.

The public was asked to comment on reserve management’s proposal for all dogs to be leashed. Of the 88 written comments, 48 were against dogs being leashed and 40 were in favour.

Mr Wright said public participation was not required when enforcing management decisions such as this, but he had asked for input anyway.

Mr Wright said his proposal would see off-leash and on-leash walkers separated on the island to avoid conflict between dogs on/off-leash.

There will also be new rules: No more than three dogs to each dog walker; dogs must be kept out of no-go areas; all dog walkers must carry a short leash (2m) for every dog brought on to the island; dog walkers must remove any dog poo; no animal is to be chased, harassed or injured; dogs may only swim in the designated areas; and all owners are responsible for their dogs’ behaviour.

A permitting system will be investigated to keep a register of dog walkers on the Island and allow for offenders to be banned. This permit would be free of charge and transferable to family members under certain conditions.

Marina resident Lance Hampson said on Facebook that ordering dogs on leash is the first step to banning dogs entirely. He accused a “bitter, mean nasty lady” of fabricating the story of the grysbok being attacked.

He accused a minority of anti-dog walkers of “making the stories up” and said he would be going to the DA about this.

His post elicited 102 comments, many in favour, some calling for reason. Members of the public are invited to submit comments to Wendy.Ndungu@capetown.gov.za by the close of business on Friday, September 27.