Brookings’ parks going to the dogs?

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer March 12, 2013 11:00 pm
Submitted photo
Submitted photo
Run, Rover, run! Fetch, Fido, fetch! 

The Brookings City Council is considering plans to designate areas in city parks in which dogs can run free, play with other pups and socialize.

The council Monday evening approved a change in city ordinance that will allow such parks.

The suggestion came from the city Parks and Recreation Department, which has noted that, while city ordinances require dogs to be on leashes throughout the city, many owners get to a park and set them free to romp.

“Weekly, we remind dog owners that they have to have their dogs on leashes,” said Parks and Recreation supervisor Tony Baron. “A lot of times, it’s just a neighborhood dog owner walking around and pops him off leash to throw a ball.”

The awful of offal

But the owners aren’t just throwing balls – and the dogs aren’t just fetching.

Baron said dog excrement is “disgusting and rampant,” and the dogs on leashes are some of the worst offenders.

“People have their locations, their timing,” he said. “So it’s concentrated in certain areas. Our intent is to create an area, bring attention to it and educate people at the same time.”

The ball fields near Azalea Park are particularly hard-hit. 

“It’s terrible on Little League coaching day,” Baron said. “You have to pick up dog feces because your kid might fall in it. It’s a regular occurrence.”

He’s even had dog owners deny their dog defecates in parks – even as the dog is hunkering down to do so.

“Shame on them,” he said of the owners.

Baron said he hates having to tell people their dog needs to be on a leash, and wishes he could refer them to areas where dogs can run free.

“I’d like to be able to say, ‘But we have an off-leash area you can take your dog,’” he said. “Right now, we don’t have that option. I’ve got nothing for them.”

He has ideas for areas in each of the three city-owned parks: Azalea, Bud Cross and Stout.

“I have a lot of park space that rarely gets used,” Baron said. “There’s space in three community parks that doesn’t get used by children or even people walking. Why not designate it for pet owners?”

The issue now goes back to the Parks Commission, which will determine which parks and where in those parks might be amenable to dog parks and present those options at a future council meeting. The commission hopes to get input from dog owners – and, through rules, educate the dog-owning public, called “petiquette.”

Baron, who himself owns four Jack Russell terriers, said Portland has 24 unfenced designated dog parks and five fenced ones. And designating an area within the city parks would be less expensive than erecting fences, he said. Currently, the only dog park in the area is at McVay Beach, where on any given day about a half-dozen dogs can be seen chasing balls, running around and playing.

The cost of fencing usually kills such projects, so Baron prefers areas that are delineated with signs.

“That’s something we could do tomorrow,” he said. “I think a little signage and education will alleviate the problem.”

City Rules

Some rules Brookings could adopt include those used in Portland: 

•Dogs must be leashed prior to entering, and when leaving, the off-leash area, and must stay within the boundaries. Owners must carry a leash and always be in control of their dogs, on- or off-leash. Owners must control their dog’s aggressive behavior or excessive barking; owners are liable for damage or injury inflicted by their dog.

•Dog waste must be collected and disposed of every time. Dog waste left in the park is a leading complaint about dogs in parks. Dog waste is not only extremely unpleasant and unwelcome, it is also the perfect breeding ground for bacteria (campylobackter and salmonella) and other forms of infection. The most damaging of these is caused by the roundworm toxocara canis. The eggs of this parasite are present in much dog waste; although initially not infectious, once the eggs hatch they pose serious health risks to human beings, particularly children.

•Unleashed dogs are never allowed in playgrounds, natural areas or gardens or on trails, pathways sports courts or fields, running tracks, fountains and park lakes, ponds or streams.

•Dogs must never be allowed to chase or harm wildlife. This includes squirrels, ducks, rabbits, birds and other animals.

•No digging is allowed. Holes create dangerous trip hazards.

•Make sure your dog is well behaved. Train your dog not to jump on people, even if he’s just being friendly.

•Dogs must demonstrate appropriate social interaction.

•Dogs displaying aggressive behavior toward people or other dogs must be leashed and removed from the area immediately.

•Owners and handlers must accept responsibility for any damage or injury caused by their dog.

•Dogs must display tags showing proof of current license and rabies vaccination.

•Bring no more than three dogs to the area at any time.

•Owners and handlers must remain in the area to supervise pets, and keep them within view and under verbal control at all times.

•To prevent injury, remove pinch or choke collars when playing off-leash.

•For health and safety reasons, do not bring a dog in heat to a park.

•For health and safety reasons, do not bring a puppy without a complete cycle of vaccinations to a park.

•Children must be closely supervised.

•Be considerate of park neighbors by playing quietly with dogs in the early morning and evening hours.

•Comply with all other park rules.