Dog Off-Leash Guidelines

In consultation with the community, we are developing Dog Off-Leash Guidelines that provide clear direction on the provision, distribution, design, and management of off-leash areas in public open spaces.

There are over 8,000 registered dogs living in Port Phillip. Many of our public spaces and beaches provide space for dogs to be off leash, however we have heard from our community that they want more dog off-leash areas, and that there are too many dog off-leash areas. 

Our City is also growing, and with limited public space and an increasing population, we need clear guidelines to plan the best ways to accommodate our residents and their pets, without impacting other park and beach users.

Between December 2022 and January 2023, we held a community-wide consultation program to engage with the community on the use of dog-off leash areas in the City of Port Phillip. This included this have your say page, pop-ups, intercept surveys and community workshops. This intent of this was to understand the community’s views on dogs in public spaces, including the key issues.

In April 2023, we conducted research focused on understanding the demand for dog off-leash areas in Port Phillip. This research included a review of current demographics and an inventory of existing off-leash areas to identify peak usage times and spaces. We also benchmarked our findings against neighbouring Councils to gain insights into their provision of dog facilities and strategies for managing conflicts in shared spaces. This research provided valuable information for future planning, considering the complexities and challenges of accommodating different needs and expectations within limited spaces.

In June and July 2023, we engaged a targeted Deliberative Panel consisting of a diverse group of individuals from different backgrounds and interests to develop five Principles and supporting statements that they recommend form the basis of the Dog Off-Leash Guidelines.

What we heard from our community

From 13 December 2022 - 29 January 2023, we collected community thoughts and ideas on how parks and beaches can be shared with dogs. We heard from 2,640 people via a range of different engagement methods. We heard that that top 5 factors we need to consider when planning for dog off-leash areas include:

  • Size of the area - the bigger the better
  • Location - Dog owners want to be able to walk to off-leash areas. Non-dog owners want off leash areas away from homes due to noise
  • Who else uses the area and what they use it for
  • How far it is set back from the road and other user groups
  • Wildlife or areas of natural significance.

In June and July 2023, we engaged a targeted Deliberative Panel consisting of a diverse group of individuals from different backgrounds and interest. The Community Panel together developed five Principles and supporting statements that they recommend form the basis of the Dog Off-Leash Guidelines.

Next Steps

We are currently developing the draft Dog Off-Leash Guidelines, underpinned by the principles developed by the Community Panel.

The draft Dog Off-Leash Guidelines will be shared with the community for further feedback in early 2024.

A community panel of 34 residents has been established to work together with the support of professional and independent facilitators to consider a wide range of information and help to shape the Dog Off-Leash Guidelines.

Recruitment to the Panel

Much care has been taken to ensure that the community panel for the Dog Off Leash Guidelines represents the Port Phillip community as much as possible. We are fortunate to have had so much interest from the community to be part of this process, with over 1,100 people expressing their interest.

The panel of 34 community members requires a diversity of views and experiences. Applications were grouped according to the following attributes: age group, gender, Council Ward, interest in the project and place of birth. Current Census data was used to determine the appropriate number of participants recruited from various backgrounds to make sure it reflects our community.

To ensure a diversity of viewpoints on the panel, we recruited 50% dog owners (or previous owners), 50% non-dog owners, 60% having no specialised interest, 20% representing a sporting club that shares space with dogs, 10% who work with dogs for a living and 10% who have an affiliation with an environmental group. Panel members were then randomly selected to meet the various criteria.

We want to make sure that any changes are based on evidence and community need. That’s why restrictions at all current dog off leash parks and beaches will remain as they are until the Guidelines have been developed with your input.

Once developed, recommendations will be made on each site. Before making any changes, we will check back in with the community to ensure they reflect what our community wants.

We will draft the Dog Off-Leash Guidelines in response to community feedback received and community panel recommendations. Once that document is in draft form, we will check back in with you to make sure we have it right. We anticipate this will be early 2024. The draft Guidelines will then be further refined based on your feedback.

Previous forum

Previous conversations

We were out and about in the community

Over summer, we popped up around the community to chat about what's working well and what can be improved for our dog off-leash areas. Click on the map to find out where we were.

Dog park map