By-laws that encourage people to get out and about are a welcome addition to our community life.
A ban on dogs at Shepparton's Australian Botanic Gardens seems a particularly restrictive rule when areas such as Victoria Park Lake have proved a popular and generally trouble-free facility.
When people act responsibly and leash dogs, then damage to wildlife and gardens would surely be minimal or non-existent. Victoria Park Lake and surrounds do not appear to have suffered greatly from dog-walking.
While it is of course a dog owner's responsibility to clean up any droppings, council can help encourage cleanliness by making sure disposal bins are easily accessible and that they are regularly stocked with poo bags.
Laws that restrict people's freedom to exercise need to be carefully considered. A walk around the botanic gardens with your dog under control should be freely available to everyone. According to the Victorian Government's health guidelines, dog walkers enjoy cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and bones and decreased stress. We would add to that, dog walkers enjoy social interaction and appreciation of nature.
Shepparton's Australian Botanic Gardens are a popular attraction for some families and bushwalkers, but they are not a big outdoor drawcard for the majority of the Shepparton community.
By allowing dog-walkers to enjoy the facility we believe visitor numbers would increase and the gardens would have a greater presence in the public consciousness than they do now.
The gardens are a wonderful community asset created through the determination and vision of volunteers, and they are something that Sheppartonians should be proud of — but they need to be used by many more people.
A dog ban while the gardens were in the early stages of planting was perhaps understandable, but now the area is firmly established the lifting of a dog-walking ban would place it on the map for many more citizens.