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Durban - The city’s plan to re-enter its beaches into the internationally approved Blue Flag grading programme could leave Durban dog owners with less space to stretch their canine companions’ legs.
Current by-laws allow dogs on the city’s beaches, as long as they are on leashes.
However, domestic animals had to be strictly controlled on Blue Flag-approved beaches, national programme co-ordinator Ted Knotts told The Mercury this week.
At Blue Flag-approved Ramsgate Beach, on the South Coast, dogs were banned, said area manager Tony Davis. “But it’s a hard rule to enforce,” he added.
The uShaka, eMdloti tidal area, eMdloti main and Umgababa beaches all have Blue Flag “pilot status”, and the city is in the process of ensuring they comply with the criteria for full Blue Flag status.
Durban withdrew from the Blue Flag programme in 2008, but earlier this year mayor James Nxumalo announced a plan to re-enter these beaches into the programme.
Knotts said a municipality had the prerogative to put in place whatever control measures it saw fit, but that dogs on beaches presented various problems. “There is the nuisance factor,” he said. “And they disrupt birds, especially those that are breeding.”
He also said there was a safety issue, “but the primary problem is hygiene”, because dogs produced faecal matter that could contaminate sea water.
Another issue was that of ritual animal sacrifices taking place on beaches. Last year, reports of people slaughtering chickens and goats on the city’s beaches sparked public fury.
“We have to be considerate of cultural diversity, but it is not recommended on Blue Flag beaches,” Knotts said.
The city’s head of parks, recreation and cemeteries, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, said he did not believe the city would have to ban dogs completely from the beaches earmarked for Blue Flag approval, because by-laws, if complied with, were sufficient. However, he believed that stricter enforcement of the laws was needed.
This meant dogs on beaches would have to be kept on leashes, that their owners would have to pick up after them, and that they would have to be kept away from the water’s edge.
Ngcobo said current by-laws did not allow for ritual animal sacrifices on the beach, “but we live in a multicultural society”. He said the real problem arose when those carrying out ritual sacrifices left the carcasses of the sacrificed animals at the beach.
“If they come early in the morning and they don’t leave anything behind, it is okay,” Ngcobo said. “But if it reaches a point where people become irresponsible, we may have to take a harsher stance.”
Horses were also considered domestic animals, Knotts said, and achieving Blue Flag status would affect mounted patrols on the beach.
Ngcobo’s deputy, Christo Swart, said mounted patrols were effective in crowd control and for visible policing, which acted as a deterrent to would-be criminals. If necessary, he said, the mounted patrol could be called upon only when crowd control was needed.
Earlier this month, the Greyville Racecourse management announced that tighter restrictions would be placed on dog walkers who frequented the track once a new synthetic track was constructed.
They suggested that dog walkers use alternative venues like the beach.
The city is expected to apply for Blue Flag approval for the four beaches in the pilot programme for the 2014/2015 Blue Flag season, which starts next November.