‘Booming’ barley grass poses risk to dogs at Christchurch parks

Penny Wright lets her beloved Kona romp around Christchurch’s Bexley Park on occasion – but she’ll keep the fox terrier safely on a leash.

Wright’s caution is warranted as the retired vet is well aware of the dangers of barley grass.

It’s so prevalent in the popular dog park that she has put up warning signs for unsuspecting owners, claiming the city council is not doing enough to control the grass.

Barley grass long-tailed seeds can migrate through a dog’s fur, skin, and ear canal and cause serious health problems.

“If it gets into the middle ear, it can be very painful and affect your hearing. It can certainly do some damage, ”Wright said.

They can cause a weeping sore and swelling if penetrated through the paws. The awns also cling to animal hair and only move forward due to the fine barbs on each seed – and dig in.

“I have performed extensive surgeries to trace barley grass through the bodies of dogs. One procedure took four hours, the incision was over 18 inches long, ”she said.

When she moved to North New Brighton two years ago, Wright checked out dog parks nearby: Bexley, Rawhiti Domain, and Horseshoe Lake.

Realizing barley grass was a problem, she alerted Christchurch City Council, as she had previously done with Waimakariri County Council staff when they lived in North Canterbury.

“They sent a ranger (in 2019), emailed them some photos, and nothing happened,” she said.

“I could see there was a problem and this year it’s booming. It is at a height where a medium to large dog is walking through the grass at face level. “

Wright said the best solution was to pull up barley grass.

“It is annual, so it has very shallow roots. Pulling it out is by far the easiest solution. Just throw them in a sack and burn them.

“The worst thing you can do is just mow it. It just spreads the seed. “

Al Hardy, Christchurch City Council’s community park manager, said rangers inspect the barley grass at Bexley Dog Park annually, with the last surveillance being on November 5th.