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Partnership educates dog owners on protecting native species

A programme to protect native wildlife, dogs and people on beaches has been launched in Auckland by the Department of Conservation.

The Lead the Way programme, in partnership with PD Insurance, was launched the day before International Dog Day, with a focus of creating harmony by all who enjoy Auckland’s beaches.

Auckland’s beaches are home to a diverse array of marine mammals and seabirds. Many are in decline and under threat, such as fur seals/kekeno, little penguins/kororā, red-billed gulls/tarāpunga, New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu and more.

Laura Boren, DOC Science Advisor of the Mountains to Sea Team, says these same beaches are favourite destinations for dogs and their owners, posing a risk to the wellbeing of the mammals and birds.

“Even a playful and rambunctious dog simply getting his exercise may disturb sunbathing seals, scare penguins, or destroy the beach nests of birds such as dotterel, fairy terns, godwits, and oyster catchers.

“Further, many dogs have an innate tendency to stalk, injure or predate wildlife, even if playing. Some pet owners are unaware of risks their dogs present to coastal wildlife, and to other dogs.”

“This is why there needs to be a stronger focus on enabling each to enjoy the coast together in harmony.”

PD Insurance NZ Chief Operating Officer Michelle Le Long says Lead the Way also recognises the challenges faced by dogs, dog owners, and others enjoying the beach.

“Anyone who has walked a dog knows the challenges of interactions between on-lead and off-lead dogs. We and DOC are urging dog owners to practise proactive management when outdoors, in protecting both native coastal species and each other,” says Michelle.

Lead the Way focuses on reducing the impact of dogs on coastal wildlife through public engagement and education.

A key element of raising awareness is a quiz that educates and then tests people on their knowledge of the coastline’s animals and risks posed to both wildlife and dogs.

Programme tips include scanning for wildlife, bringing a toy for distracting your pup, advising others if you spot wildlife, and knowing where on the beach is the best place for human and canine activity.

Pet parents can also purchase a Lead the Way lead for their dog to signal their commitment to wildlife-wise dog ownership. The leads provide a visual clue of a dog’s temperament:

  • green means they are friendly with dogs and people

  • orange signals caution; the dog is sometimes uneasy/reactive with new dogs or people

  • red is a clear warning; the dog is often nervous or reactive with new dogs or people

  • yellow means they are disabled or vulnerable to interactions in some other way.

To purchase a Lead the Way lead for your dog or learn more about the programme, visit


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