Saturday, 12 January 2013

Dogs in Kouga

PO Box 3302
Jeffreys Bay
12 January 2013
The Municipal Manager
Kouga Municipality
33 Da Gama Road
Jeffreys Bay.

Dear Sir
Dogs in Kouga
I am a dog-owner living in Central Jeffreys Bay. I walk my dog on or near Dolphin Beach every day, as part of my daily exercise routine. My dog is a border collie cross, one year old, well trained and very docile.
In the year in which I have owned the dog I have walked him on the beaches of Jeffreys Bay without incident.  Anyone who actually takes a dog to the beach will know that the dogs are not territorial about the beach area, and they regard a walk on the beach as an opportunity to meet new and interesting friends, much like their owners. Incidents of aggression are few and far between, and are easily dealt with.
I acquired my dog after the death of my wife. He has been an essential companion to me during a difficult, sad and lonely phase of my life. I suspect this may be the case for many other dog-owners in the retired community in Jeffreys Bay.
The Kouga Municipality, like every other municipal structure, has more than enough existing laws to deal with public nuisances, be they caused by humans or animals. Unruly behaviour, drunken behaviour, beggars and tramps, people littering and defecating in public areas (for example, outside the municipal offices at the Shell Museum), people scattering broken bottles on the beach – you have many more serious issues to deal with before you need to address the occasional dog running free on the beach. 
Banning dogs from an area such as a beach in the absence of specific cause or complaint is no different to banning people from a beach without cause, as we used to do so often in the apartheid days. Is a dog guilty without reason, just because it’s a dog? Is a man unwelcome just because of his skin colour? We have a much bigger problem than a few dogs on J Bay beaches. We have frequent, serious cases of robbery in certain areas of certain beaches. Do you suggest we ban all poor people from our beaches in order to solve this real and serious problem?
The press report concerning this proposed action refers to “numerous complaints from beach-goers about aggressive dogs”. It is a fundamental point of law that an accused is entitled to know the specific charges brought against them, and to face their accuser. Before taking any action on the matter of dogs on beaches, please publish the names, dates, and details of these “numerous” accusations, so that we may all establish whether the many law-abiding dog owners are being held hostage to a few embittered individuals.
Jeffreys Bay is a town dependent on the good will of visiting tourists for its very survival. As you state in your notice, “For many, dog-walking is an important part of their coastal experience as well as a form of social recreation.” Please do not even consider banning a key part of the experience that many tourists enjoy in Jeffreys Bay.  By all means, use the considerable powers already vested in your security staff to apprehend and prosecute public nuisances, be they dogs or people or whatever. But please do not pass a law which makes dog owners guilty for the mere act of owning and exercising their dogs.

Yours sincerely
Trevor Watkins (on behalf of Sparky)