REDLAND City Council has moved to cut the damage from suburban dogs on koalas, expanding the area in which people will have to lock up or tether their animals at night.
A total of 447 homes will be impacted in parts of Thorneside and Thornlands, St James’s Park, Ferntree Park and North Stradbroke Island.
Councillors backed the changes but votes were split after a lengthy debate.
The council was addressed by RSPCA spokeswoman Shelia Collecott who said koalas and all wildlife were enormously impacted by dogs and cats.
Annually, 51,000 animals were brought into the RSPCA and of these 22,000 were wildlife.
Ms Collecott said koalas were found after being mauled by dogs with no obvious marks but internally, they suffered such severe damage that they died.
“Responsible pet ownership is about keeping animals in at night,’’ she said.
A St James’s Park Neighbourhood Watch representative said residents were devastated that they would be restricted by the changes.
Many large blocks were not fenced and this would be an impost. Others were concerned that if they had to keep dogs in at night, it would increase the potential for crime.
“If you can’t have a dog, it will increase theft,’’ she said.
Cr Paul Gleeson spoke against the move, saying two-thirds of constituents were against restrictions.
“It’s just green tape,’’ he said. “It can’t and won’t be policed. It’s crazy. It’s green tape for the sake of it.’’
Cr Lance Hewlett said people whose animals killed koalas did not telephone the council to report the incident.
“And lots of people don’t care about what their dogs are doing,’’ he said. “...What about the (injured) koalas you don’t see?’’
Cr Julie Talty said statistics on injured koalas did not support further restrictions. Only two out of 170 koala admissions to the RSPCA were from dog attacks and both of these were from Straddie.
“This is an exercise in appeasement,’’ she said. “...It’s a pointless law.’’
Former councillor and koala campaigner Tony Bowler said Cr Williams could hardly take credit for the move, given the laws were in place in 2012.
She said she was disappointed the Ridgewood Downs development at Mt Cotton was not included as one of its development approval conditions was "no dogs or cats ". Similar conditions related to the Era development at Capalaba
“Shame on Cr Talty for not supporting anything that will protect koalas especially in Division 6, the division with the most bushland,’’ she said.
“Similarly, Cr Gleeson has all the bush along the dam which also has significant koala habitat. The Reserve in Gleeson's division off Ney Road is next to an area acquired by the council and state due to its high koala numbers and this area was used ... for research.’’
Cr Wendy Boglary said people cherished koalas and they were worth protecting. Australia was a long way behind nations like Canada where wildlife was much more appreciated.
She said it was notable that the Redlands Economic Development Board was talking about tourism and the role that natural assets could play, including koalas.
Mayor Karen Williams said the laws were an ineffective way of protecting koalas and potentially could turn residents against each other.
It concerned her that people might think that this move had secured the future of koalas when it had not.
She said it might be that the size of lots impacted needed to be changed for the laws to be effective. “It’s no silver bullet,’’ she said.
Former ranger and wildlife ambulance operator Gail Bruce said it had taken decades for society to come a short distance with koala dog issues yet a few councillors were threatening to throw laws out.
“It's not a big ask to allow safe passage for koalas through yards at night,’’ she said. “Most dog lovers say they love all animals so surely they would want to support this?
“Of course allowing koalas (and wallabies in some areas) safe access through more yards at night is going to help the problem as they are less likely to be attacked or forced back onto busy roads. Often people don't make the connection.
“And, yes, the more areas included, the better the outcome but as long as you have some councillors insisting that their areas are not going to have a bar of it, what hope is there for our precious native animals?’’
Koala Action Group spokeswoman Debbie Pointing said she was pleased that most councillors supported the move.
“The Redlands has lost more than 600 koalas over the years to dog attacks and the majority of these would have been preventable,’’ she said.
Ms Pointing said making a secure area for dogs did not need to be expensive and as far as security was concerned, canines had an acute sense of smell and hearing.
“A gated patio or deck, laundry or garage can be used or an outside den could be a pool enclosure or small fenced pen that contains the dogs bed, water and play toys,’’ she said.