Wildlife Parks: Right or Wrong?


Dr. Jeff Werber is an Emmy Award-winning, nationally renowned veterinarian and former president of the Association of Veterinary Communicators. For more from Dr. Werber, find him on Facebook or on his website at www.drjeff.com.

I’ve always considered myself more of an advocate of Animal Welfare than of Animal Rights, though I do respect many of the opinions and philosophies of some of the animal rights organizations. One particular area that has always plagued me with much internal conflict is that of keeping animals in zoos and in wildlife parks and refuges. This past week I had the opportunity to visit one such wildlife park, and having experienced the venue from a different perspective as well as having had the chance to really engage in conversation with the animal caretakers, my internal conflict was actually magnified.

I guess, in the perfect world, taking animals out of their natural habitats and placing them in enclosures, probably against their “natural” will, would be considered by many, myself included, cruel. But, it is very clear to me, that we are no longer living in that “perfect world!” We have in many instances encroached upon their natural habitats and successfully destroyed them. By ruining these natural habitats, we have upset the balance that has helped these animals thrive and survive for so many years. Even the “fittest” may no longer survive. Because of us, the “playing field” is no longer a level one!

It saddened me to learn how many species of animals were near extinction because of habitat destruction—because their balance was upset. It was the firm opinion of some of these wildlife refuge experts, that it has now become our responsibility to provide many of these animals with a safe haven, in an environment that closely resembles their own natural habitats to afford them the opportunity to survive and breed in order to prevent extinction. They now need to survive because of us, and not in spite of us!

Having seen these animals roaming fairly freely in their “man-made” habitats, and having visited with quite a few of the caretakers, I was admittedly pleasantly surprised. Though certainly not perfect, it could have been worse. Unlike a circus where animals are kept in very unnatural habitats, and are there solely for our “entertainment,” and, clearly, NOT for their own, many of these animal parks and refuges are there for the animals’ sake, and not for ours. Our ability to visit and see these animals is a privilege, and allows us to learn about them and, hopefully, appreciate them. They are not meant to entertain us.

Sharing my experience with you is not meant to convince you about the merits of wildlife parks, but will hopefully get you thinking, as it did me. Before this visit, I was not a real fan, but I can see that the argument for having them is a bit convincing.

I would like to start a healthy dialogue with you, our readers, to see how you feel. I am sure there are varied (and passionate) opinions about this, so I do want to keep your comments civil. Let us know here at the Our Site—we’d be happy to answer your questions and comments.

Dr. Jeff

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


Allow Domestic Dogs (pets) Into National Parks

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Allow Domestic Dogs Into National Parks

Many pet-owning travellers are upset that they are effectively barred from some of the country’s most beautiful places, claiming that if their dogs are kept under control there would not be a problem allowing them into National Parks. Some rely on dogs for companionship and recent research has shown that grey nomads who travel with pets have fewer chronic health conditions.

Having been dog owners for many years we find it difficult to accept that domestic dogs not be allowed into National Parks. We understand the rules for not allowing dogs into restaurants and shops etc, but not for parks as that is the most natural place for them to be with their owners. Reasons given for this rule are that the dogs may defecate and owners not pick up the droppings. Apart from the problem of others stepping in the droppings it is said that the smell may scare off other animals. Solution, heavier penalties for owners who fail to pick up after their dog along with the provision of ‘doggie’ bags in main car parks (for owners who fail to carry them). It is also claimed that domestic dogs may attack wildlife. Solution, heavier penalties for owners who fail to have their dog on a leash and under control. Another concern is that domestic dogs can breed with dingos. Solution, as part of a registration process (see below) only de-sexed dogs can be approved. Ensure that dogs going into National Parks have been trained, are registered (see note below) and are de-sexed.

If domestic dogs are banned, why is it that horses and motor bikes are allowed in the National Parks? Don’t they cause far more damage? Domestic dogs under strict control would cause no damage.

We would recommend a National Park (NP) registration system for the purpose of allowing domestic dogs into National Parks. Dogs in National Parks (DINAP). Owners would be required to complete an application form showing full details of themselves and their dogs (with photographs of the dogs for easy identification and to ensure the approval is legitimate and verifiable). An annual fee could be charged to cover any administrative costs (say $25 per annum).

Suggested National Park Rules for Domestic Dogs.

Only NP registered (and de-sexed) dogs allowed entry under complete control by their handler.

No more than one dog per adult.

Complete ban on dangerous dogs such as Bull Terrier, Rottweiler etc as well as hunting dogs.

Dogs MUST be on leash and under control at all times (bright colour lease?).

Owners MUST pick up after dogs.

Dogs must be kept to established walking trails.

Suggested (minimum) Penalties for breach of rules.

$1,000 on the spot fine for dogs not on leash.

$1,000 on the spot fine for not picking up after dog.

$1,000 on the spot fine for dogs off walking trails.

$5,000 on the spot fine for owners of dogs not shown on registration and compulsory surrender of dog.

$5,000 on the spot fine for owners of dogs not registered and compulsory surrender of dog.

$1,000 on the spot fine for owners of dogs with out of date registration.

+ Lifetime ban on pets in National Parks for any person in breach of rules.

It may be said by some that there will be people who abuse the system and continue to take their dogs into National Parks without any control over them and who fail to pick up after them. These irresponsible people will do this (and are currently doing this) in any case regardless of laws and regulations.

Please support this petition (and perhaps contact your local member for their support).


Top 10 Issues Facing National Parks

Learn about the top ten issues facing the national parks today (including climate change, invasive species, and water usage) in this list from National Geographic.

Untold Stories
The term "national park" conjures up thoughts of big, natural landscapes like Grand Canyon and Yosemite. But two-thirds of the National Park Service's 392 areas were created to protect historic or cultural resources, from colonial Boston to New Mexico's Chaco Canyon. And many of those parks lack the money and staff to use those resources to their fullest.“We have an incredible collection of museum artifacts, and 45 percent of the Park Service collections have not even been catalogued,” says James Nations of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “We’ve got stuff, and we don’t even know what we’ve got, and we don’t have places to store it. We’re missing opportunities to tell the story of America through our national parks.”

Crumbling History
National parks protect the historic buildings in which America’s history was made, places like Independence Hall, Ellis Island, and the San Antonio Missions. But some of these hallowed edifices are crumbling and in desperate need of repair. They’re a big part of a $9.5 billion maintenance backlog that plagues the park system.“We need to preserve and maintain those buildings because the stories are written in the stone and the bricks,” NPCA’s Nations says.

Wildlife Management
No park exists in isolation, and that fact is becoming increasingly clear as the areas surrounding parks are developed for living space, agriculture, mining, forestry, and more. The iconic species protected inside the parks don’t recognize boundaries and must often move in and out of the parks to feed, mate, or migrate. If larger ecological wildlife corridors can’t be maintained to include the lands outside of parks, many species may not survive within them either.

Foreign Invaders
National parks are inviting places, especially for non-native species that can cause havoc once they move in. Plants and insects often hitchhike to our shores on boats or airplanes while other species, like snakes, are intentionally imported for the exotic pet trade. When turned loose with no competition, invasive species can run amok in an ecosystem and send a park’s native residents toward extinction.More than 6,500 non-native invasive species have been found in U.S. national parks. Seventy percent of them are plants, which encroach on a staggering seven million acres (2.8 million hectares) of our national parklands.

Adjacent Development
A Canadian company hopes to site North America’s largest open-pit gold and copper mine right next to Alaska’s remote Lake Clark National Park. Uranium prospecting is currently under way on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Sugar producers have long fouled waters with phosphorus pollution and disrupted critical flows to the Everglades.What happens on a park’s borders can dramatically impact the environment inside the park itself. Mining, petroleum prospecting, clear-cut lumbering, and other developments are generally prohibited inside parks—but they still pose serious threats to water quality, clean air, and other vital aspects of the park environment.

Climate Change
If Earth’s climate continues to change as scientists predict it will, the national parks will be impacted like the rest of the planet. Glaciers may melt away, as indeed they are at Glacier National Park in Montana. Fire seasons may grow in length and severity, and the landscape may shift under the feet of the parks’ wild residents.“Changes in temperature and precipitation can push species out of their previous ranges towards softer temperatures, either upwards in elevation or northward,” says Nations. “But they don’t recognize where the boundary is and in many cases that land is owned by someone else.”


Where can I take my dog in NSW national parks?

Dogs and other pets are not permitted in most NSW national parks and reserves. You can, however, bring your dog to some NSW regional parks, as long as they're under effective control.

Read our Pets in Parks policy

The NSW National Parks Pets in Parks policy provides more information about restrictions, responsible dog walking, assistance animals, driving through parks with pets in your car, and use of domestic animals for park management.

Dogs welcome in NSW State forests

Did you know that dogs are welcome in all State forests across NSW?

Planning to take a pup to a park blog

Read our blog for some pretty good reasons why you can’t bring dogs into NSW national parks. Spoiler alert: most of them have nothing to do with whether your pup is a very good boy.

Help reduce weeds and pest animals

Help reduce the impact of pest animals and weeds in NSW national parks so you can keep enjoying their beautiful landscapes while visiting.

Help injured wildlife

If you find an injured or distressed native animal, call your local volunteer wildlife rehabilitation organisation.

Animals and plants you might see in parks

The diversity of Australian animals and native plants in NSW national parks is extraordinary. Some species can be found across a range of parks, while others are endemic to a specific area.


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