The fur is flying in Sydney’s inner west, where angry residents are howling in protest at their newly merged council’s crackdown on dogs in pubs.
For as long as local punters can remember, authorities in Balmain have turned a blind eye to state laws prohibiting canines entering drinking holes because the dog-friendly pubs have become one of the suburb’s best-loved attractions for visitors.
But the newly amalgamated Inner West Council has suddenly started handing out warnings of a $600 fine for dog owners who bring their pooches inside, and pubs who allow it to happen.
Picture: Richard Dobson
That explanation does not wash with local dog-owners, who question why the council suddenly has a problem with a situation that has existed for years.
Celebrity vet Chris Brown and former Balmain Mayor Darcy Byrne are among the high-profile Sydneysiders to join the campaign against council action, with a pro-pub pooches video the latter posted on social media attracting more than 33,000 views in just two weeks.
A separate petition calling for the council to allow pets into Balmain pubs has attracted almost 2000 signatures so far.
Local MP Jamie Parker said he had written to the council, urging its administrator “to urgently address” the issue.
Failure to do so would be a blow to local business, he said.
“Dog-friendly pubs are a key ingredient of the charm and unique atmosphere in Balmain, and it’s a tradition well-known and much-loved by local residents.”
“Complaints about anti-social behaviour as a result of dogs coming into pubs appear non-existent, so I’m a puzzled as to why the council has only now cracked down on this apparently harmless practice.”
Australia is regarded as one of the strictest Western nations when it comes to accessibility for companion animals.
Dog-owners in many European countries are free to take their pets inside shops, cafes, restaurants and onto public transport.
Justine Hoermann, who runs the Balmain Dog Lovers Facebook page, said the local crackdown was yet another example of society’s increasing “nanny state of affairs”.
“About 50 per cent of households in this area do or will own a dog and previously it has all worked fine,” she said.
“There is an etiquette that is known — if you’re going to take your dog to a pub, you make sure they’re under your control, they’re on a short leash and they’re not causing any disturbance to anyone else. It’s just common sense.”
“Suddenly there is this change and no one understands why.”
Dry Dock Hotel publican Kieren Doyle said dogs were once allowed throughout his premises.
More recently, they had been barred from entering food service areas, but with warnings from council inspectors about the new crackdown he has had no choice but to ban them altogether.
“It used to be a part of the Balmain landscape — you could bring dogs into most of the pubs around here,” he said.