Conference paper

Don't fence me in: Understanding local government decisions to allocate and fence public open space for dogs in Melbourne, Australia

Cities and towns Open spaces Urban planning Sustainability Melbourne
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Abstract: This study examines the rationales of key actors in local government in making decisions about fencing public open spaces for dogs and builds an overarching understanding of how different councils allocate public open space for dogs. To create sustainable cities, urban planning as a profession must critically engage with management of other species, not just humans. Around 40% of households in Australia own a dog, yet dogs are a neglected subject in planning scholarship. Dogs have a private and public life, and a key aspect of their public life involves urban parkland. Twentyeight key actors from eight councils in Melbourne and the Victorian government were interviewed during August-December, 2014. This study adopts a qualitative content analysis of these interview texts to identify the drivers of the decision-making process undertaken by these key actors in local government and examine the outcomes of that process. Urban parkland is typically scarce in supply and deeply contested. Dogs are a controversial user of urban parkland and with their owners are often relegated to marginal urban spaces. The decisionmaking process and outcomes of local government, to fence or not to fence, illuminates the treatment of dogs and dog owners in planning and highlights some dilemmas and debates that urban planners face when planning for other species. Importantly, the practice of allocating and fencing open space for dogs is found to primarily focus on the interests of dog owners rather than dogs.

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