Dog Rules, or dogs rule

The proposed DC dog park rules are pretty ridiculous, granted. From the Washington Post:

“Among the proposed rules: A dog park must be at least 200 feet from businesses, school playgrounds and houses. The area must be 10,000 square feet — a quarter of an acre — or more, take up no more than 25 percent of a park and have a slope of no more than 5 percent. And the Health Department must certify that there are no rats within five blocks.”

I know of no human resident of the district that doesn’t live within five blocks–nay, five feet–of the nearest rat. Ward 1 councilman Jim Graham had proposed creating specifications for dog parks but even he says these aren’t exactly what he had in mind.

There is an ongoing debate about whether the city should foot the bill for enclosed dog runs. They are great for neighborhoods, and neighborhood property values, and are definitely preferable to non-sanctioned, unofficial runs where owners let dogs off leash without fencing or boundaries. I am a dog owner who lives in Adams Morgan, and the fenced dog run there is very popular. People drive from around the city to let their dogs play there. There are rules for poop pick up and aggressive behavior. Not only do dog owners have a place to take their pets for exercise, but always people bring their kids to look at the dogs over the fence. Some elderly people come every day to watch the goings on. It is a community gem. My dog loves it there, as do I.

On a list serve discussing the issue of financing, one member summed up the situation quite eloquently, and I reprint it here:

“I think a key point being lost here, over the debate about who pays for dog parks and what ideal urban dog conduct should be, is that dogs parks are a significant neighborhood amenity to a significant fraction of the resident population. Both dog owners and those who like having dogs separated from other recreational space value and benefit from having a dog park nearby. Like greenery, or playgrounds, or the convenience of a metro stop, or attractive retail opportunities, or a good school, a dog park is something that makes people say, “oh, what a fine thing to have within walking distance of where I live,” and makes them willing to pay more rent or invest more in the purchase of property to live there. Not every resident has to equally value every amenity. People without children pay taxes that support schools and playgrounds. People who don’t drive cars pay for the maintenance of the streets. And people who do drive cars have to subsidize the bus and metro system nonetheless. As far as I know, the provision of amenities that residents value has always been an accepted function of local government. Around here, many (e.g. schools, parks) also need to be supported by private contributions.

The regulations under discussion do not, as far as I know, address the subject of financing, but rather the possibility of siting dog parks at all. The question is, do we want to be able to have them at all in neighborhoods where people want them? Or do we want to just regulate them out of existence? Whether or not it pays for dog runs, government should at least ALLOW them.”

2 Comments so far

  1. Max (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 9:11 am

    Great post, Trudi!

    As a fellow dog owner, I agree that 1) the government should allow for dog parks and 2) they are a valuable addition to any urban community. People are always going to own dogs in the city, so why not give them a place where their dogs can run, play, poop and pee? Hell, I don’t have any kids, but if they city erected a swingset across the street from me, that’d be just swell. If their kid pooped on the ground, no big deal, just clean it up!

    The city is at fault here. They waver back and forth on their stance and their actions. One year there are cops giving tickets for dogs being off leash, the next year they’re cool with it. They talk about creating “true” dog parks with fences and dog friendly surfaces but THEY NEVER DO. Instead people continue to take their dogs to regular, unfenced parks, and this pisses the non dog owners off.

    As for the rules/laws mentioned in the WaPo article, they are just plain ridiculous. There will be an uproar if they get passed, I guarantee it.

  2. Mike (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 9:32 am

    I think it’s great that the proposed rules are this absurd, because it means that’ll either never be passed or never be effectively enforced. I’m almost suspicious that a sneaky pro-dog person wrote the rules that way for that very reason.

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