Sydney’s inner west parents are concerned that Marrickville Council is putting dogs before children after a dog attack in Henson Park.
Police are looking for the red cattle dog’s elderly female owner who left the scene refusing to give her details. The dog attack on the young boy has prompted safety concerns as locals continue to question the council’s increase in off-leash dog areas.
The council has nearly completed its Pets in Parks trial, giving dogs more space to roam free, including at Henson Park. A petition by Stanmore residents Merilynne Gee and Maggie Ehnhuus gave rise to the trial after rangers began fining dog owners at Weekly Park, which they had long-considered unofficially off-leash.
Marrickville Deputy Mayor Emanuel Tsardoulias said the trial’s feedback had been positive. “Dog owners have been letting us know they’re happy there’s more space for their dogs to exercise.”
Yet many posts on the council’s online forum, yoursaymarrickville express dissatisfaction, asking if dogs are being prioritised ahead of people. Newtown K’s post said the council was “depriving the majority of residents safe use of parks in order to appease a minority of dog owners”.
Posts by parents of young children show a lack of confidence in non-compliant dog owners being held to account. They say dogs often wander into the children’s boundaries while rangers are nowhere to be seen.
Asked about these concerns, Councillor Tsardoulias placed the onus on dog owners. “Well, our policy is quite strong and robust,” he said. “We do believe in an educational approach. We give them the opportunity first but if they start to breach it, well there are hefty fines.”
Cr Tsardoulias was confident it wouldn’t be necessary to reverse off-leash areas or change boundaries post-trial, saying the council had conducted a key risk assessment and it was a balancing act between park users.
Enmore parent Kate Perston said she had a real problem with more off-leash areas. After an incident with a large dog, her five-year-old son Bailey developed a fear and needed help from a psychologist.
“Bailey was terrified,” she said. “ After that he would see a tiny dog, even on a lead, and cower behind me. ”
She also questioned the positioning of the dog zone at Enmore Park as she and Bailey had to cross through it to get from the carpark to Enmore Pool for swimming lessons.
Scottish Terrier owner Simon Thompson from Marrickville said he too preferred dog-only fenced parks. “I’ve got these two puppies and they’re not trained yet so I never let them off their leads at Enmore Park, ” he said. “I worry they’ll run out of the park and straight onto Enmore road.”
According to the Council’s website, there are currently four fenced parks specifically for dogs in the larger Marrickville area. All other parks offer off-leash dog exercise areas on a time-share basis with other park users.
Marrickville Police and the council declined to answer further questions about the Henson Park incident as it is currently under investigation. The council trial is due to end in August. Council will then “undertake a comprehensive community survey that, along with the feedback received, will enable it to assess the trial and decide whether to make the trial areas permanent”.