Monday, April 25, 2005

The rantings of a dog owner

For the past two years, my two small dogs and I have been regular visitors to a local community park in my Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. When I first started visiting the park, it was often strewn with litter (including previously used condoms) and drug deals were occasionally seen happening in the ally along the back of the park. Since that time, a new elementary school has opened next door and the neighborhood – following the lead of the dog owners – has remade the park.

Today, the dog owners are being forced out of the park by a few neighbors who feel that the park is there for them and the children and not for use by those of us with dogs. The park neighbors have regularly called the DC Metropolitan Police and the National Park Service (which has jurisdiction over the park) telling them stories of “children being attacked” and “unsanitary conditions” in the park. Both the Metropolitan Police and the Park Service have begun regular patrols around the area in an effort to enforce the District of Columbia’s leash law (all dogs must be leashed at all times on public property within the District… no exceptions).

Neither of the allegations of the park’s neighbors is true. Without the dog owners cleaning the park on a daily basis, the park would be (once again) strewn with trash. And, the enforcement of the leash law has resulted in children (who are allegedly afraid of the dogs) leading the dogs on walks around the park before and after school each day so that their owners can stand and talk.

While all this is going on, a number of other area residents have repeatedly called the myriad of different law enforcement organizations that exist in the District in an effort to reduce car break-ins and drug dealing in the neighborhood to no avail. Why is it always the squeaky wheel that gets attention?

In a related development, Reuters is reporting that a new law in Turin, Italy, will require dog owners to walk their dogs three times a day. Dog owners will also be banned from dyeing their pets’ fur or “any other form of animal mutilation” for merely aesthetic motives. I wonder if we can get DC City Council approval for a similar law…. while creating dog parks and easing the city’s leash laws.


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