A dog park would strengthen community ties The Howard...

LETTERS

April 30, 2000

A dog park would strengthen community ties

The Howard County Dog Owners Group (DOG) has been formed to pursue the establishment of an off-leash dog park in Howard County.

A dog park, defined as "an enclosed public area designated specifically for use by dogs and their owners," provides many benefits to the community.

Such parks support compliance with animal control laws; allow increased pet exercise in a safe environment; promote training and socialization of pets and discourage negative behaviors that can be a public nuisance.

These parks offer dogs off-leash play areas while allowing their owners enjoy the park-like setting.

The dog parks provide dog owners an opportunity to exercise and socialize, too, and to strengthen the bonds they share with their pets and fellow citizens.

Visitors can also share information about responsible pet ownership and community events.

For a community's dogs, an off-leash dog park is a wonderful and safe place for vigorous exercise, which is essential for their physical and emotional well-being. For many dogs, such a park may provide their only opportunity to interact with other dogs and with people other than their owners.

Countless animal behavioral studies show that dogs that are well-socialized are healthier, and are far less likely to develop behavioral problems.

John Priest

Columbia

The writer is president of Howard County DOG.

Time to improve relations with Cuba

Attorney General Janet Reno finally has acted on behalf of Elian Gonzalez. This action was long overdue, but I support her for finally doing the right thing.

The criticism of Ms. Reno for the raid she ordered April 22 illustrates why she should have acted earlier: The longer the standoff continued, the bolder the Florida Gonzalez family and supporters of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) became.

Under both Democrats and Republicans, the United States has allowed the CANF to dictate its policy toward Cuba for decades.

We have thus encouraged Cuban-Americans in their hatred of Fidel Castro and their belief that they will some day triumphantly return to Cuba.

This world view is unrealistic.

When we finally normalize relations with Cuba, both the U.S. government and the CANF will have to reassess their views and develop a more realistic way to interact with Cuba and influence its future.

Normalization of relations will also require Cuba to change its policies in ways that may in the long run benefit the Cuban-Americans in Florida.

The United States should be a country that respects and supports diversity. We should not encourage hate by Cuban-Americans; rather we should help them (and ourselves) to resolve these decades-old hatreds and move on to constructive engagement with those with whom we differ.

It is time for the people and government of the United States to move toward a more compassionate and humane relationship with Cuba.

Ray Donaldson

Fulton

The writer is vice chairman of the Howard County Friends of Latin America.

Family's intransigence forced ugly seizure

Do Elian Gonzalez' Miami relatives and their supporters want us to believe that Cuban citizenship negates any parental rights?

The citizens of Cuba are repressed and Elian's life there could surely be hard, but that does not mean Juan Gonzalez should automatically lose his right to custody of his son in Cuba.

Federal agents were wrong to storm the Miami family's home with such force. A machine gun thrust into your face at 5: 15 a.m. in the morning will make for some trauma and future nightmares.

But the Miami relatives were also wrong to keep Elian from his father. Their defiance gave Elian's presence in Miami the feel of a hostage situation, so the situation had to be resolved like one.

Federal patience and family cooperation might been a better way to reunite Elian and Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Debra E. Blackburn

Columbia

Selective prosecution weakens our gun laws

We are constantly told that the solution to teen-agers' gun accidents is more gun laws.

It seems to me that the necessary laws exist, they are simply never implemented.

Why are charges not filed when parents illegally leave arms unlocked and within reach of children ("Boy shot while playing is in critical condition," April 21)?

I often see that charges are not filed in cases where people have lost their children through their own irresponsibility.

The favorite excuse given for this is that those people have been punished enough.

I always wonder if they would be so forgiving if the child was injured with a neighbor's weapon.

We see the same selective charging for adult crimes with weapons as well.

We need prosecutors and judges to start administering existing laws consistently.

I am against passing any more gun laws until we actually use the ones that have been enacted.

Gail Handleman

Laurel

Who will protect us from the NRA?

An Ellicott City teen-ager, Tanun Wichainaraphong, is shot in the back of the head and dies.

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