If you research the most dog-friendly cities across the globe you will get many column inches and beautiful photographs of pooches in the parks and plazas of romantic places such as Amsterdam, Rome and Paris. I decided to score Auckland on a number of questions.
Are dogs allowed on public transport? (0/10) Currently dogs are not allowed to travel with their humans on buses or trains (except working dogs). Ferries to Waiheke carry dogs free and have reserved seating for humans and their dogs on the outer deck. There is currently a charge for dogs travelling by ferry to Great Barrier Island.
Are there lots of parks for off-leash exercise? (7/10) There are over 40 dedicated areas in local parks across Auckland where dogs can be exercised off the leash. Most dog exercise areas have a dog poo bin and free poo bags. While many parks have a water source accessible to dogs, many do not. Auckland also has several dog agility stations. Access rules for regional parks vary. Auckland Council says where dogs are prohibited from beaches, foreshores and parks it is to protect wildlife.
Is dog registration easy and affordable? (8/10) There were 96,699 dogs registered in Auckland last year. Renewing dog registration can be done online. De-sexing your dog and attaining a responsible dog owner licence (RDOL) from the council reduces the cost, as does paying before the first of August each year. I am one of 24,380 dog owners in Auckland with an RDOL. It costs $63 for each of my two little dogs (a reduction of $40 on each).
Are dog rules fair, acceptable and easily understood? (10/10) The council did a great job consolidating seven councils' dog rules within two years of the amalgamation to produce the 2012 policy on dogs and the Animal Management Bylaw. The rules are easily found on the council website and publicly signposted. Both are under review.
Are there programmes to teach people to be safe around dogs? (7/10) Part of the dog registration fee pays for council-led safety programmes in Auckland schools and in the community. There is also a cellphone app for primary students called "Pedigree, a dog's story".
The council has recently created a quarterly e-newsletter, "Paw Post", that includes tips on keeping safe around dogs as well as information on dog ownership.
Is there an effective online dog rehoming service? (5/10) The council has five shelters; in Silverdale, Manukau, Henderson, Waiheke and Great Barrier. There is a council website where all adoptable dogs from the shelters can be viewed. The council rehomes 100 per cent of adoptable dogs. Last year that figure was 545. The council also sponsors meet and greet events for shelter dogs.
The council does not rehome dogs with underlying health issues or that fail breed or temperament tests. Last year around 75 per cent of the 2846 dogs euthanised were menacing breeds or types.
Is there year-round beach access for dogs to have off-leash exercise? (2/10) There are very few year-round beaches in the central Auckland area where dogs can be off-leash and have a swim. Kakamatua is one in the west. The council says the rules are in force to respect other users when beaches are at their busiest.
Mostly there is only off-leash dog access to beach and surf after-hours and in the winter months.
Summary: C+ Could do betterAuckland has a clear set of dog rules, a registration system that is affordable and easy, dedicated dog exercise areas across the region, lots of fun events that are dog-friendly and a very effective online adoption service. More work needs to be done to ensure Auckland dogs have access year-round to a beach where they can run free and have a swim.
It is also clearly time for Auckland Transport to consider some controlled access for dogs on public transport.
But if Auckland is ever to climb up the dog-friendly city tables, perhaps the biggest issue that needs to be tackled is to reduce the total of 2846 dogs that are euthanised annually by the council.
• Cathy Casey is an Auckland Council member.