True story: A very hot day and a drive to a nearby small beach. The beach is deserted apart from a woman with a small black poodle. We pass the time of day with the poodle’s owner and comment on her sweet little dog.
Our small white dog is not interested in the poodle – only anxious to reach the cooling water. As we reach the water’s edge, I release the catch on her leash and she walks into the shallows. My husband follows her and I take a quick photo of the two of them cooling off.
And then it’s my turn.
I wade into the cool water almost up to my knees and our little dog stays close to me, only actually swimming (dog paddle, what else?) if she accidentally finds herself in a slightly deeper part of the water.
After a while the little dog and I begin to leave the water. As we do, I see a man with a badge on his shirt accost my husband who had been taking photographs of the sea-side scene.
I wonder what the man wants and hope there is not a ban on photographing anything around; a private boat mooring? a passing yacht?
When our little dog reaches the two men, the uniformed man reaches down and checks the registration tag that is attached to her collar.
It then dawns on me.
Are dogs perhaps not allowed on this beach?.
But there are no signs telling us that. And, what’s more, there are often dogs frolicking along this small section of the shoreline. Only the day before, there were four, apart from ours, and it was quite a lovely scene.
The man with the badge on his shirt is not amused when I ask, ‘Surely we’re not in trouble for having a dog on the beach?’
He writes in his note book and informs us that dogs must be ‘leashed’ at all times.
I suppose I should not have told him that it was ‘a pathetic rule’ because that made him more belligerent - which then caused me to take on the role of ‘assertive female being talked down to by an officious and obnoxious man’.
(Been there before).
As the confrontation progressed, I realised that the strange little square object fixed to his central chest area was, in fact, a recording device.
My annoyance level thus increased another notch or two.
When pressed, he admitted that he had recorded our whole conversation. I asked for a copy and he told me that (‘by law’) he was not to give me one.
I requested a copy of the ‘infringement notice’ and he told me that the fine was to be $121 and that I would have to wait until I received the notice in the mail.
By the time Mr Uniformed Man had left the beach, I was at boiling point and not only to do with the hot day.
We packed up and drove home, only to find the ‘Infringement Notice’ already in our mail box.
A round-about series of emails followed over the next days as I attempted to speak with the local councillor connected to the specific area of the ‘scene of the crime’. But finally accepted that I could only talk to the councillor of the area in which we lived.
Five days later found me in the office of ‘our’ councillor.
To say that he was interested in my disputed claim is a vast overstatement.
He proceeded to recite to me the rules and regulations of his/our area ‘division’ and inform me of various parks that allowed dogs to be ‘off leash’. I tried to tell him that that wasn’t the issue and it was the fact that I had been fined $121 for having a small (old and very much under control) dog in an area unmarked as an ‘on leash’ area of the foreshore.
He stated that it is a ‘default’ situation that dogs must be ‘on leash’ at all times, anywhere, unless a sign announces that it is a ‘dog off leash’ area.
The ‘conversation’ went around and around in time-wasting circles as he tried to force more and more unnecessary council rules into my consciousness.
Then he wanted to know if I had ‘any other infringement notices’.
After I had answered ‘no’ to that, he asked, ‘traffic infringements?’
‘No’, I answered.
‘What about your husband?’
‘We can check’, he said.
I had taken my small dog to a beach on a hot day.
She (the dog) had stayed by my (or my husband’s) side the whole time.
Subsequently I had been issued with an ‘infringement notice’ and $121 fine for having ‘an animal not under effective control’. Yes, that’s the official wording.
The next thing is that when I plead a case for review of this unfair assault, I am being questioned as to any traffic infringements belonging to my husband.
Welcome to the Brave New World of officialdom and the fining of enjoyment.
Talk about money-raising, crazy bureaucracy and fun police all rolled into one.
Meanwhile, I await my fate…due to arrive in the mailbox within two weeks.
Will it be hand-delivered by my friend with the recording device strapped to his chest?
PS: Yesterday we finally found a ‘dog OFF leash area’ part of beach. The water was dirty and full of slimy weeds. It was unpleasant to wade into and I had to rinse the gunk off the little dog after her swim. We will not be returning.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.