Graham: Man’s Best Friend

Why have we let the law get to the point where we can’t take our furry mates bush?

It’s as Aussie as eating a meat pie (with dead ’orse) at the cricket while wearing thongs, stubbies and a bluey, at the same time drinking a coldie and telling the ump he needs glasses. In short, it’s an Aussie birthright. Yet just try doing it – damn near bloody impossible. What am I talking about? Taking your dog bush!

Yeah sure, it’s on all the posters for outback clothing, the postcards we send overseas love a shot of a dog on a beach and the old dog in a ute image on a dusty rural track has been used so many times it’s like an Aussie icon. Yet the reality is so much different. Dogs and the Aussie bush are a hard nut to crack.

I know there are designated dog beaches and there are a handful of dog-friendly campsites scattered randomly about the country, but the reality is, your dog is simply not allowed in most places we all like to wheel. National parks – don’t even think about it. Most beaches – nope sorry. State forest – yeah maybe, but it will depend on where you live.

The single biggest issue over here in the west, apart from being mostly impossible to legally take my best mate bush, is that even areas where he is allowed to tag along have been heavily baited with 1080 poison. This stuff is downright savage. No way am I taking that risk with my dog. I’ve noticed in certain parts of the east coast, notices are posted to alert you to baiting times and dates – not so in the west. You are left to assume baits are ever-present and recent. And they bait everywhere, even in dog-friendly regions. It’s a joke!

In the very South-West where I call home, almost the entire stretch of coast for hundreds of kilometres to the south is national park. The rivers all run through national parks and pretty much any patch of scrub that holds something deeming it worthwhile visiting is NP. That means even just an arvo swim on the beach with old smelly is 100% illegal, unless I’m keen to share a couple of hundred metres of reserved beach with everyone else.

It could be me, but it all just doesn’t make much sense. Now look, I’m not pretending I have the ultimate answer. It’s a tricky bit of kit to get your head around. Sure, there are some sensitive areas that letting Max fang around may not be the best idea (have a think about wetlands used by huge flocks of nesting birds as an example). Yet surely, for the most part couldn’t we come up with a scheme to relax what to me seem like draconian laws with little basis in reality?

I mean, we have laws governing the use of just about everything these days. It seems it wouldn’t be too hard to allow dogs into more areas. Heck, if you can take a 4WD into an area, surely a dog isn’t going to be any more detrimental. Think about it! The 4WD has to be licensed and there is a duty of care the owner has to minimise damage. Why can’t the dog be treated in a similar manner?

Perhaps it’s us though. Maybe we really can’t be trusted to do the right thing. Have a look at the ongoing battle we have just keeping tracks open and campsites free thanks to abuse by people who think littering or driving anywhere they like is a rite. Throw dogs in that mix and yeah, I can see us having problems. Yet like so much, it’s the minority that ruin it for the majority.

My hope is that we can come up with a way to take our mates a little further afield than is currently allowed. I have no idea how we go about making such a dream reality, but I do know this is just one more Aussie tradition that is gradually slipping away, soon to be lost forever. Are you okay with that?

Till such a time, I guess old mate Didj the dog will just have to keep wearing boardies and sunglasses and pretending to be my hairy mate…

Take a leaf from your dog’s book and don’t forget to Work to Live, not Live to Work!