Queen’s Park recreational facility is popular in the community for leisurely strolls as well as soccer training but those using the field have been left traumatised by dog owners who bring their animals to the facility illegally and let them run off the leash.
This is despite the fact that there are signs at both ends of the park prohibiting dogs and a neighbouring park where dogs are allowed to run freely.
Woodstock’s Naasief Ajam found it funny the first time a dog came charging at him while he was doing a few laps around the field, but on the second occassion, he was not too happy about it.
“The first dog you could see was very playful, he just wanted attention and eventually, I ended up playing with him and he even joined me for a few laps around the field. It was scary seeing the dog coming at me the first time and I certainly do not condone people breaking the rules,” he said.
However, his second encounter was much more frightening and it even forced him to jump a fence to avoid being bitten.
“This happened in the space of a week. The second dog just rushed towards me and the look on the dog’s face suggested he did not want to play. The owner, this small woman, rushed after the dog and after I jumped the fence, she put the dog back on the leash, apologised to me and she continued walking the dog as if nothing happened,” Mr Ajam added.
Astrid Thompson is another nearby resident who experienced a similar incident at the facility which made her lose all trust in dogs.
Ms Thompson was taking her usual evening “power walk” around the field, when she noticed a dark blue bakkie pulling up outside the gate. A German shepherd jumped out of the vehicle.
“That was not the scary part, but I have to admit, my stomach did start turning a bit. This dog ran straight into the park, stood at the top of the hill and watched me for a few minutes before he jumped the gate and then came charging,” she said.
Ms Thompson froze, but instantly burst into a sprint when she noticed the dog coming closer. Luckily for her, the dog was well-trained and the owner immediately yelled at the dog to “stop and sit”, which the dog did.
“I wasn’t mauled by this dog nor was I bitten, but just that look of the dog rushing towards me in that speed and with so much aggression, it’s quite frightening and traumatising as well.
“Yes, I am not a pet lover and maybe somebody who loves pets would have handled that situation differently, but that moment was scary,” she said.
According to the City of Cape Town’s Animal By-law of 2010, dogs may not be in public streets or public places unless on a leash and under control – unless in a designated free-running area. All dog owners should ensure that their dogs do not have access to public streets by securing their premises adequately.
The City’s Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the City had not received any complaints regarding the matter, but warned dog users: “A fine of R500 can be issued for allowing a dog to be in a public place or public street without a leash in terms of the Animal By-law of 2010.”
Mr Smith said the purpose of the neighbouring dog walking park was to balance the needs of the dog-walking community and those who prefer an environment free of dogs.
“The City Parks Department developed a set of criteria for identifying dog-free (prohibited), dogs on leash, and dog ‘free-running’ areas. Members of the public are always advised to consult the signboards in any area where they take their dogs for walks. These signboards outline the rules clearly regarding the presence of dogs,” he said.
He added that when the City receives complaints, law enforcement officers investigate and then issue either compliance notices or fines if applicable.
Queens Park recreational facility is not regarded as a known hot spot for non-compliance but local law enforcement would be informed to increase patrols in this area.
Chairman of Queens Park Football Club, which is based at the facility, Adam Alexander, disagreed with the City’s response regarding complaints and said: “I have taken pictures and have lodged complaints myself with the City of Cape Town. I don’t know how they can say that no complaints were received.”
Mr Alexander said dog walking inside the facility remains a “big problem” and they continue to try and address the issue by speaking to dog owners.
“There used to be a guy who allows his two bull terriers to run around the field freely. We approached this guy and respectfully asked him to stop, because we work with lots of kids and anything can go wrong.”
Mr Alexander said some children from the club even had allergic reactions to the dog poo which was left behind on the field and he continues to run the junior section in fear, due to dogs running loose.
“There are times the kids are training, a dog will come out of nowhere and suddenly attack the soccer ball,” Mr Alexander said.
He was not happy about the neighbouring dog walking park, which is located in the very place the Queens Park swimming pool once stood and said it’s due to space constraints that people move to the football field.
“People come to the park with big dogs and sometimes they fear the dogs might fight with one another, then they come to the soccer field and let their dogs run loose, forgetting that it’s actually prohibited and not allowed. We (football club) then end up chasing these people off the field and at the end of the day, it’s not really our job to do this,” Mr Alexander said.
* To report complaints to the City’s Law Enforcement Department, you may contact 021 596 1999.