(Off)- leading questions

Lindy McDonald, Somerset West

With reference to the proposed “off-lead” area at Radloff Park, I have to say I am shocked, astounded and flabbergasted.

Considering the hundreds of dog-owners ranging in ages, many of whom have more that one dog that frequent the park daily I am extremely surprised by this proposal and who made it?

On Tuesday September 19, in the hour and a half that I was walking my two dogs, Roxy and Jazz (who is completely blind), between 7.30am and 9am, I counted 25 owners, most of whom had two or more dogs with them.

Crowding dogs into this small fenced-off area is asking for trouble. For years dog owners have been walking their dogs off-lead at Radloff.

Unfortunately there is an extremely small group who are actively trying to take this away from the majority of park users who walk their dogs here daily, specificallybecause it is a unique off-lead area.

The dog walkers are there every single day of the year, with many coming twice a day. I have walked my dogs for the past seven years, every single day, come rain or shine.

It is such a dynamic exciting place for dogs to explore, socialise, sniff, run, play, dig, swim and generally be dogs with exhuberant abandon.

As owners we socialise too, standing around in groups while the dogs play, chase and sniff each other, we chat, share opinions and help socialise new puppies by allowing a relaxed interaction to happen. This is the most unique place in Somerset West/CapeTown, and without a doubt the majority of people using it during the week are the dog walkers.

On Saturday September 16, I spent four hours weeding in the park at the area close to the car park, and during that time, the only people who entered the park were dog walkers, with their dogs off-lead, and they were horrified to hear of this proposal.

People come from Stellenbosch, Gordon’s Bay, Strand – and one woman I spoke to comes from Bellville to allow her dog to experience this freedom. It is incredible to witness the interaction between all the dogs and owners, and yes, there are flare-ups – usually these are handled quickly and effectively by responsible owners, and without there being too much fuss. There are many areas for people to walk that you cannot take your dogs even on lead, for example Helderberg Nature Reserve, the beach and many other parks around the city, cyclist have many trails to ride hundreds of kilometres for everyone to walk, run and cycle (this unique area is only 1.5km, a thin narrow piece of farmland).

I have heard that was left to the people specifically to allow animals to free roam. This small space provides the only place for dog lovers to enjoy the outdoors and to give their dogs a wonderful, exciting, stimulating outing.

Regarding the tiny area earmarked to be fenced off – it is a disaster area – I park in this area, it becomes a wet mushy quagmire in winter, there are no trees, no river access and there have been numerous sewerage overflows from the manholes situated close by over the past few years. It is tiny, and wholly inadequate to accommodate the numbers of dogs who frequent the park, which are estimated at around 350 to 400 daily.

Come and actually spend time in the park and observe the happiness that the people using it experience.

The dog walkers are the life and soul of Radloff and they use the park specifically so their dogs can be free – walking on lead can be done everywhere and more, and more dog behaviourist and are agreeing that off lead dogs are better controlled and less likely to fight than on-lead dogs. I have registered my objection to the proposal, and urge others to do the same.

Gwen Browne-Poole, Somerset West

To all dog walkers in Radloff Park. The City of Cape Town are trying to make all dog walkers in the park except for a tiny area to keep their dogs on leads, which is not fair as dogs have walked freely forever there.

There are elderly people who live in retirement villages and flats, also people who work and their dogs are their only companions and Radloff Park is a place they can let their beloved dogs run freely.

If you are a dog lover who walks at the park, please email to sipumelele.mbusi@capetown.gov.za, or fax comments to 086 576 0947 by October 17.

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