Where can dogs run free? As someone involved in...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

April 29, 2000

Where can dogs run free?

As someone involved in community recreation programs for children, let me first say that the Baltimore area is woefully short of park space to accommodate children.

We already turn children away because of lack of space and using parks for both human recreation and exercising dogs can create unsavory situations.

I support the leash law and would even have it administered more vigorously.

A normally gentle pet can become unpredictable when placed in the presence of strangers and other animals. A dog on a leash is simply more controllable.

And while many owners are diligent about cleaning up dogs' waste, many others are not.

Many of our parks have become outdoor bathrooms for pets. Most owners wouldn't accept that in their own yards and there's no reason to accept it in parks.

If pet owners do not have the space they need to exercise their animals on their own property, they should examine closely their desire to own these pets.

If I must choose between children and pets, children win every time.

Fred Metschulat ,Baltimore

The writer is presient of Towson Recreation Council.

We believe that people and dogs should share public parkland. Authorities should amend leash laws so that only dogs identified as dangerous through due process must be leashed in the parks.

This will allow dogs to engage in healthy running and playing that is not practical in most urban and suburban spaces.

Our experience is that people are more likely than dogs to compromise the safety, security and pleasure of other park users. In fact, the presence of dogs and their human companions in parks has apparently reduced drug trafficking and other criminal activity.

We recognize that some people have had bad experiences with dogs and fear all dogs or dogs of a particular breed or size.

But this does not justify discrimination against all dogs and their human companions any more than bad experiences with people justify discrimination against all people of a particular race or gender. We should judge dogs as individuals.

Dogs enjoying parks with responsible human companions can improve the quality of the park experience for most people.

Mary Seidel and Robert Seidel, Baltimore

Should there be designated, confined areas in parks where dogs can play unleashed? Yes. Should leash laws be repealed? No.

Leash laws are very important and should be better enforced. Responsible owners do not let their dogs run wild.

But dog parks are for people: it is people who meet there, keep the area clean and socialize. And, as dog parks do not have to be level and clear of trees, they can occupy property not suited for other recreations.

And dog parks tend to be self-policing. because their patrons are typically responsible pet owners.

Cheryl Babik, Glen Burnie

Dog owners are worried because their dogs can't run free; but what about the kids who can't run barefoot in the park?

Dog wastes left behind by inconsiderate owners allow the spread of disease and cause children and adults a great deal of inconvenience.

These dogs, who may be great pets to their owners, also terrorize children, the elderly and joggers.

The dog leash law was established because dog owners were not controlling their pets or cleaning up after them.

I worked 35 years with the Department of Recreation and Parks and dealt repeatedly with complaints from community about nuisance dogs.

Families could not picnic without being disturbed. Walkers, joggers, cyclists and those pursuing other athletic and pleasant pastimes were harassed by out-of-control dogs.

I support city Parks and Recreation Director Thomas Overton 100 percent as he insists on enforcing Baltimore's leash law and the requirement to clean up after dogs.

Douglas B. Brady Jr., Baltimore

There should be designated areas in parks where dogs can run unleashed. Such areas allow pets a freedom of exercise they can't get confined in their own yards.

A good exercise session can relieve dogs' anxiety and promote bonding between pet and owner.

Having designated dog areas would also allow non-pet owners to enjoy the park without being bothered by dogs.

The leash laws should not be repealed, just amended to allow unleashing in designated park areas.

Kitty Deimel, Baltimore

Other special-use groups, such as baseball, tennis and soccer clubs have access to public parks. Why not dog owners?

Dog parks, like other special-use areas, can be a community center where people with a shared interest socialize.

In my experience at dog parks in other cities, I have never seen a dogfight or a dog bite a human.

Most dogs are not aggressive because they are not on their own territory and regular users will encourage (or demand) the removal of any dog that misbehaves. Likewise, peer patrol is effective in keeping the dog park clean.

Dog parks promote responsible pet ownership, as owners exchange ideas and advice while their dogs play. And well-exercised dogs make better neighbors -- less likely to create a nuisance or destroy property.

Kathryn Mattingly Baltimore

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