Emotional? Hell, yes!
Shortly after councilmember Fred Schultz said dog parks would be an “emotional issue on both sides,” the council was treated to an example. A close-to-tears citizen denounced the slurs she felt had been cast on the proud and gentle canine species. She was also frustrated to the point of near-inarticulation that the city’s focus has shifted from Spring Park.
The citizen petition that helped spark the dog-park discussion requested that dogs be allowed off-leash in Spring Park where an informal group of dog owners has gathered for years to let their pets run and play (illegally) for years. The council’s work-session discussion Feb. 16 centered on installing fenced-in dog-parks in other parts of the city, not Spring Park. The staff felt that there was not enough room there for both a fenced-in dog area and the existing athletic field.
Even city manager Barbara Matthews seemed more emphatic than usual as she described the dog park downside. City staff and the city’s liability insurance carrier get the vapors when they consider the prospect of dogs running free on public lands. If the council must proceed, fencing is strongly urged. And participants must sign waivers. This would not only protect the city against liability, it would keep out non-residents.
Matthews pointedly told the council that fencing, maintenance, and administration would be an additional expense – and the budget is strained already. As she subtly put it, “The Council would need to balance any such expenditure against other community priorities.”
The sites the staff judged big enough for fenced-in dog parks are the city-owned “Prince George’s triangle” on Prince George’s Avenue near New Hampshire Avenue, Opal Daniels Park on Hancock Avenue near Carroll and Sherman Avenues, and a green space at Maple Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway. The latter two properties are owned by the state Park and Planning Commission.
The council was not entirely pleased with all of this. Dan Robinson and Josh Wright had envisioned something closer to what the Spring Park petition had asked for. They wanted “multi-use” parks, not dedicated fenced-in areas. And they didn’t want just one park in the city, though if that were the only solution possible, it should be in a central location and easily accessible (which would exclude the Prince Georges Triangle and Opal Daniels Park).
Terry Seamens didn’t want the green space near Sligo Creek Park used for a dog park. His young constituents use it extensively in the summer.
Mayor Bruce Williams wondered if the land surrounding the PEPCO substation across from the city Community Center could be used. But there was an objection even to this idea – the aforementioned citizen promptly expressed health concerns about the substation’s “electromagnetic waves.”
Dan Robinson said that if there was only one dog park most residents would drive their dogs to it – widening the city’s carbon footprint Robinson is ever mindful of. Wright speculated that dog owners outside an easy walking distance of the one dog park would likely continue to take their fuzzy pals to the nearest people park to let them off leash – risking a $500 fine.
Aren’t you glad, Dear Readers, that Your Gilbert got through this report with (almost) no cheesy “dog” puns?
The solution seems obvious to Your Gilbert, who is wholly objective and unemotional on this subject.
The city should have dog-ownership requirements similar to those of dog rescue groups. Meeting these requirements should be at the owner’s expense, of course. Keeping a dog is costly, owners should have to show they can afford it.
Would-be owners should have fenced-in yards. Dogs and owners should be assessed for compatibility. Potential owners should be assessed for their competency. Dogs that need more rural environments where they can run free should be disallowed. Dogs and owners should be on probation until they can prove the dog is properly trained, preferably by voice command.
Furthermore, barking and other nuisance dogs should be confiscated and shipped to a country that appreciates them for their nutritional value. include all yappy lap dogs while we’re at it. Any dog owner heard speaking baby-talk to their pet should get prison time, preferably at hard labor, and their dog sent to military school.
Once these simple, reasonable laws and requirements are in place, we won’t need a dog park. Another problem solved!