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Will D.C. Give People's Parks To Dogs?

While Virginia is busy creating whole new bureaucracies in the effort to document the dangers of biting dogs, the District is also eager to apply the machinery of government to canine questions, in this case the notion of carving off pieces of public parks and handing them over to dog owners.

The District, unlike some cities around the country, does not provide public space for dog runs. In 2005, the D.C. Council endorsed the idea of creating dog parks. But dog owners now argue that the rules the city came up with for creating dog runs are too restrictive. The city's proposed rules would require community groups to pay most of the cost of setting up dog runs and would require that Dog Exercise Areas (DEAs) occupy only 25 percent of any given park space, meaning that small street triangle parks could not be used for dog runs. Dog parks also would not be permitted in any area unless it were certified to be rat-free, which does seem a bit absurd, given that there's probably not an inch of space inside the Beltway that is guaranteed rat-free. Proponents of dog parks believe that these rules "will effectively make it almost impossible to establish dog parks in most wards in the city," according to dog park proponent Kathy Silva, writing in themail e-newsletter.

"We do not believe that dogs are more important than people, but we do believe that dog owners are equal to other park patrons and should be treated equitably," says an online petition put together by the dog run advocates.

Of course, one man's equity is another's discrimination, and the idea of taking precious park space away from general public use and devoting it entirely to the passions of dog owners has sparked opposition by both community gardeners and parents whose kids use the parks.

There are some privately-run dog parks around the city, and they seem to exist without opposition. Why, then, get the city government into the dog-management arena? More important, why take away space from human park users? At Volta Park in Georgetown, for example, years of conflict between kids playing ball and dog owners exercising their animals in left field finally led to the erection of a plastic fence across the park. In that instance, neither side was satisfied: The dog owners felt hemmed in and the ballplayers felt cheated out of a place to play catch or a left field in which to rob a batter of a homerun.

The dog issue is a perpetual aggravation for city parks administrators. In the District, the conflict sometimes pits dog owners against gardeners, sometimes dog owners against parents and kids. This being Washington, it even becomes a racial issue, with black residents arguing that the dog run advocates are almost always white people trying to take public facilities away from residents who were here first. ("We used to get letters saying, 'Darn these white folks thinking they can run us out of here with their dogs,' " deputy mayor Neil Albert told me some time back, recalling his tenure as the city parks director.)

People who own dogs have to make a calculation about what they can provide for their animals where they live. Some dog owners say apartment life is well-suited for dogs; others say the animals need open spaces to run around in. I don't know. But in a city with limited parkland, it's hard to justify ripping away chunks of space for the exclusive use of dog owners. The city's proposed regulations do a decent job of balancing interests; yes, they make it difficult to establish a dog run, but that's exactly what it should be--difficult.

By Marc Fisher |  July 24, 2007; 7:28 AM ET
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Comments

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Fairfax County requires that the group wanting to open a dog park in one of their parks jump through hoops and acquire the funding. County doesnt pay for the parks.
Marc why shouldnt DC tax payers have dog parks. There are ball fields and basketball courts at some DC parks why shouldnt DC dog owners get equal treatment.

Posted by: vaherder | July 24, 2007 8:21 AM

RRrrr......Woof! Rrrr, Woof Woof! Bow-wowowowowowow! aieee...

Posted by: HarpoDC | July 24, 2007 9:03 AM

DC has more park space than most other metropolitan areas, so I'm not sure what the observation "limited parkland" adds to the discussion. Also, the writer does not discuss why it's OK to carve up some areas of our public parks for dedicated uses related to community gardening, tennis and children's play areas but not OK for others such as a dog run. As a result, his opinion is not very persuasive.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2007 9:07 AM

DC has more park space than most other metropolitan areas, so I'm not sure what the observation "limited parkland" adds to the discussion. Also, the writer does not discuss why it's OK to carve up some areas of our public parks for dedicated uses related to community gardening, tennis and children's play areas but not OK for others such as a dog run. As a result, his opinion is not very persuasive.

Posted by: Brian | July 24, 2007 9:08 AM

If we accomodate room for playgrounds and community gardens, I do not see why we cannot accomodate dog owners. I do not have kids nor do I garden, yet I am happy to share the space with those that do. Where I live in NW, there are plenty of areas of city parks that are under-used, or not used at all, other than just being open space. And I don't want to hear the crap about the societal interest of having playgrounds and community gardens trumping the interests of dog owners. I am a taxpayer and citizen and my interests deserve inclusion just as much as anyone else. It should not be difficult to establish dog parks anymore than it is difficult to build a playground. I would think that the playground contingent would want all that dog poop confined to one area anyway. New York seems to accomodate dog owners, so I do not see why DC cannot.

Posted by: Andrew | July 24, 2007 9:09 AM

DC has more park space than most cities because of Rock Creek Park, which is not accessible as a dog park for most of the city.

Posted by: Leon | July 24, 2007 9:10 AM

Mr Fisher's dislike of animals manages to come through in articles like this.

Posted by: June65 | July 24, 2007 9:10 AM

The areas where people want to establish dog runs are often in the dense inner city where there IS very limited parkland mostly consisting of tiny "pocket parks"--which are essentially underutilized empty lots. I lived right in the middle of DC and had to walk over 20 minutes to reach a playground when my son was little. Neil Albert (the former department of parks director quoted in the article) oversaw the closure of the two small children's pools that were within a 20 minute walk of where I lived. He seems to imply that this is an issue of race when it is not. The problem is that the parks in the traditionally poorer part of DC are in terrible shape. There aren't nearly enough playgrounds and those that there are aren't well designed and are mixed with other uses that aren't child friendly. And there's not even a bus that goes into Rock Creek Park so that the 40%+ DC residents who don't have a car can gain proper access to this incredible resource.

The dog run people need to unite their cause with the parents and other potential park users. Let's improve the parks for everyone.

Posted by: m | July 24, 2007 9:20 AM

I don't own a dog, but I don't see a problem with carving out some space for dogs to run. That creates a happy, healthy pet (and less barking to annoy the neighbors).

And what about those triangles mentioned in the article? It's not like kids can play ball on those - they're too small. Why couldn't they just be fenced in for dog use?

Or what about allowing "Dog owner Clubs" where folks pay small annual dues to provide for maintenance of the area? I think Congressional Cemetery works this way...

I guess I just don't understand what the problem is here. Gardeners, kids and dogs should all have equal access to parkland - it's provided for the enjoyment for all.

Posted by: LV | July 24, 2007 9:24 AM

I think there was a bigger dog story this week how the Federal government is going to build a monument to military service dogs. I always had dogs growing up, I love dogs, I like to see local governments take some limited, sensible, dog-friendly measures, but the idea of a national monument as ridiculous.

Posted by: Paul | July 24, 2007 9:25 AM

I think there was a bigger dog story this week how the Federal government is going to build a monument to military service dogs. I always had dogs growing up, I love dogs, I like to see local governments take some limited, sensible, dog-friendly measures, but the idea of a national monument as ridiculous.

Posted by: Paul | July 24, 2007 9:26 AM

I'm not a fan of dogs or of those dog owners who flaunt leash laws or fail to clean up after their dogs. Nevertheless, this is a free country and people are allowed to own dogs. The city should find ways to fairly accommodate dog owners so that dogs can be kept away from the rest of us.

Posted by: Not a Dog Lover | July 24, 2007 9:27 AM

Like Marc, I am not a dog person. I think his view is that gardening, baseball and benches are for people so it is OK to set aside dedicated space for them. Dog runs are for dogs.

I choose whatever option results in less dog poop in my front yard. Either more dog parks so the poop is concentrated elsewhere or no dog parks so city folk don't buy dogs.

Arlington County has residential areas like DC and a lot of small parks. Does anyone have a report on how there dog park program is working there?

Posted by: Josey | July 24, 2007 9:34 AM

Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, once notorious for urban crime, was re-claimed for law-abiding neighbors by dog-walkers. The National Park Service, which oversees the leafy square, let private citizens fence in two kiddie play areas. Why not let dog owners do the same?

Mike Licht
(No dogs; no kids)

Posted by: Mike Licht | July 24, 2007 9:41 AM

Rat Free?! Where would that be - 'downtown' Rockville has rats - in the little bushes outside the movie theater! We live with rats, some people see them, some don't, but dogs always see them! Some time ago the WaPo did an article on a guy with terriers that caught rats at Lafayette Park in the evenings - for fun and exersize! Rats look and act like a squeaky toy to a dog.

Posted by: Carla J. | July 24, 2007 9:42 AM

Dog runs are not only for dogs. They are for dog owners, who pay taxes just like parents, gardening enthusiasts, tennis players and ball players. My idea of fun recreation in the park is exercising my dog, and if everyone else gets a place to play in the park, I should too.

Posted by: dogowner | July 24, 2007 9:45 AM

Anyone who keeps a dog indoors all day is being unfair to the dog, if you don't have anywhere to let them run they get bored, bark and destroy your property. Dogs are great companions but they are animals and need room to run.

Posted by: Tracy | July 24, 2007 10:02 AM

If the dog owners take care of the parks (including, but not just, picking up the poop), why not? Marc probably feels this is another example of animals being favored to the detriment of people, but I see no evidence that poor people would somehow benefit if the dog parks did not exist. The poor often have dogs and cannot get to outlying areas easily. There are park areas that are sometimes underused, sometimes due to security (look at Meridian Park, aka Malcolm X Park). Are entire parks being set aside for dogs , with people excluded, or just small parts of some parks?

Posted by: Steve | July 24, 2007 10:04 AM

If the dog owners take care of the parks (including, but not just, picking up the poop), why not? Marc probably feels this is another example of animals being favored to the detriment of people, but I see no evidence that poor people would somehow benefit if the dog parks did not exist. The poor often have dogs and cannot get to outlying areas easily. There are park areas that are sometimes underused, sometimes due to security (look at Meridian Park, aka Malcolm X Park). Are entire parks being set aside for dogs , with people excluded, or just small parts of some parks?

Posted by: Steve | July 24, 2007 10:04 AM

What kind of ill informed horse's arse rant is this? Clearly someone has a bug about Volta Park. I wonder who that could be, another NIMBY hack perhaps? Get a real job Marc!

The presence of dog owners walking their pets contributes immeasurably to the security of the urban environment. Ask anyone who has lived in Georgetwon, near Logan Circle or Lincoln Park for any length of time.

Posted by: John | July 24, 2007 10:10 AM

What kind of ill informed horse's arse rant is this? Clearly someone has a bug about Volta Park. I wonder who that could be, another NIMBY hack perhaps? Get a real job Marc!

The presence of dog owners walking their pets contributes immeasurably to the security of the urban environment. Ask anyone who has lived in Georgetwon, near Logan Circle or Lincoln Park for any length of time.

Posted by: John | July 24, 2007 10:10 AM

A big problem with dogs and dog parks is the dog waste and potential dog bites and harasment. Tennis courts take away potential park playground space but tennis balls don't run after my children (most of the time). If laws on cleaning up after your pet and using a leash were strictly enfored with large fines, people should have a place for their past time (dog ownership). The problem is how can you possibly clean up dog feces or urine so that my child doesn't land in it.

Posted by: Lee | July 24, 2007 10:26 AM

Mark, as you point out in your article, dogs and their owners are already in the parks. Having distinct dog areas will help solve the problems that sometimes occur when dogs and people try to use the same space for recreation, and free up the non-dog space for the other activities you mention. This is not a zero-sum game.

Posted by: Jake | July 24, 2007 10:31 AM

Can any of you people read? Marc's point is that existing park space would have to be converted into dog park area. That takes space that was once used for a variety of activities--multi-use, communal space--and makes it space exclusive to a minority.

The argument would be the same if tennis players decided there were not enough tennis courts and lobbied to have whole chunks of existing parks paved over.

Most human activites are not adequately accomodated by the city. Ever try to bike through town? Ensuring that doggies get enough exercise should not be on the to-do list.

Nobody is stopping dog owners from buying their own land for a park. Or getting a house with a yard. Or not torturing an animal for your amusement by forcing it to live in a tiny city space.

Posted by: joe | July 24, 2007 10:32 AM

The idea that dog runs are exclusively for dogs is ridiculous. Marc, have you ever even been to a bonified dog park? Done right, they are usually a great way for people to socialize. Dog owners talk among themselves as their dogs play together, non-dog-owners sometimes leaning against the fence to watch the dogs wrestle and play. I'm not a dog owner, but having spent some time in Seattle, where dog parks are common, it seems to me that space set aside for dog owners makes parks more vibrant, more interesting, and more populated--with people and animals alike.

I don't own a tennis racket, so tennis courts are useless to me. Should I complain that all those horrible, mean white people are trying to steal my parks with their fancy tennis courts? I mean, kids can't use a tennis court when two adults are playing a game on it--and think about how many people and dogs can fit in the space of a single tennis court! Think how many people could use the space taken up by a community garden--are string beans more important than people? In terms of the greatest good for the greatest number of DC residents, using park land for dog runs makes a lot more sense than using it for either tennsi courts or community gardens--where is your outrage about them?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2007 10:33 AM

There are reasonable arguments pro and con, but Marc's inflammatory suggestion that parkland is being taken away from the public and "handed over to dog owners" is absurd.

It is no more being "handed over" to them than ballfields are "handed over" to baseball players or playgrounds are "handed over" to children.

New York City, hardly a place with a superabundance of green space or, for that matter, a rat-free city, has worked this problem out. So it is hard to imagine that DC cannot. The small dog run in Adams Morgan (hardly a rat-free zone) seems to be working fine, so could others.

And the proposed regulations are absurdly restrictive, in fact, it is hard to imagine they are anything other than a bureaucratic effort to scuttle the entire initiative.

And it is also true, as another post pointed out, that for many parks, especially in the winter, dog walkers are the primary users and in more than one instance have helped reclaim parks, such as Meridian Hill, from drug dealers and other criminals.

There's room in this green city for everybody, including the dogs. And Marc belongs in the doghouse for his unnecessarily adversarial view.

Posted by: Meridian | July 24, 2007 10:35 AM

Lee--

If there is a separate, fenced area of the park for dogs, then all of the dog poop is ideally confined to that area, leaving the rest of the park poop-free for your kids. Everybody wins.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 24, 2007 10:36 AM

I grew up with dogs, but my wife is afraid of them. As a result, I have no patience for dog owners who flaunt leash laws. I am also sick of hearing, "he would never hurt anyone". Scaring people is unacceptable, and a fear of dogs is not an irrational fear. I like dog parks, because they eliminate an excuse for dog owners to be irresponsible. As for comparing dogs to children- your dog won't grow up to pay taxes and social security or take care of us when we get old. My kids also don't poop on the sidewalk, and they never scare anyone.

Posted by: barro | July 24, 2007 10:39 AM

june65,

Marc does not like pets. But he likes animals. There is a huge difference.

I am a vegetarian and one of those hippie environmental types and I agree with Fisher that pets are a scourge. First of all, there is nothing natural about a domesticated animal--they have been bred strictly for human use, and perversely, for human entertainment. The first instance of genetic manipulation, and it is OBVIOUS that dogs cannot be dogs if imprisoned in a city. But I guess if the dog owners are happy, that's what matters, right? The few natural animal traits that remaining in these animals must be dealt a crushing blow or they quickly show just how out of place animals are in human company.

Last, supporting a frivoulous pet population is a drain on the limited resources at society's disposable. And yes, although many morons willingly blind themselves to this reality, those resources include charitable work, contributionms, and public funds.

Although I often do not agree with Fisher, his stance on pets has some wisdom to it. I urge you to wake up and ralize that it is not necessary for a wealthy society to go out of its way to act like spoiled, idiotic children.

Peace.

Posted by: logos | July 24, 2007 10:47 AM

People FLOUT laws, not FLAUNT them.

Language police out.

Posted by: bkp | July 24, 2007 10:49 AM

I live in the old town part of Alexandria where it seems like every person has a dog and no yard. I am an anomaly and don't own or particularly like dogs (cat person), but it doesn't bother me that the City operates lots of dog parks: http://alexandriava.gov/recreation/parks/dogpark.html

There's one near my apartment building and all the residents take their dogs over there to do play and poop, which is definitely better than letting them play and poop on the property.

Posted by: alexandria | July 24, 2007 10:53 AM

logos,

Things like music programs in schools drain resources from a society too--and many people would describe teaching music as a frivoulous waste of resources. Now, maybe you're one of those hippie-types who hates music and and thinks kids shouldn't be exposed to it, so this argument may hold no water with you--but I would make the argument that pets, like music, enriches people's lives, makes them happier, and gives them a unique perspective on the beauty and wonder of life. Your "frivoulous" pet, might be an old widower's greatest joy when she comes home at the end of the day. Try to look past your own personal preferences and realize that there is a whole world of people out there who find joy and happiness elsewhere than you do.

Posted by: woof | July 24, 2007 11:08 AM

...but I would make the argunment that [owning] pets... and "widow" not widower...jeesh, can't write today...

Posted by: woof | July 24, 2007 11:10 AM

The city's proposed regulations on dog parks are Alice-In-Wonderland absurd. It wouldn't be difficult to build a dog run...it would be IMPOSSIBLE. Certified rat-free? Are you kidding me. I do not own a pet, but I do know from experience living in suburban areas that the greatest beneficiaries of public dog runs are people; the social interaction of the dog owners and the satisfaction of regular property owners who are spared the little "surprises" on thier lawn more than make up for the cost.

Posted by: hoos30 | July 24, 2007 11:34 AM

Marc Fisher shouldn't have been the person to write this article. He's already on the record as being anti-pets and against animal rights efforts.

The main problem is that the city's demographics are changing, and D.C. government needs to improve to meet the changing needs of its citizens. D.C. government pushed a major initiative to attract the middle class to live in the city. Well, now we're here and the government is still oriented around the needs of the lower class and ignoring our needs. The middle class values pets differently from the way lower class values pets. Our values and needs are no less valid than anyone else's. We pay a lot of tax dollars through income tax and property tax - which largely go to the needs of the lower class. We're paying for schools, extra police to monitor criminal activities, and making up the difference for long-time residents receiving the homestead exemption to cover improved city functions such as street repaving, beautification, etc. I'm sick and tired of the lower class always having their hand out, and raising Cain when we dare to ask for some small concession to meet our needs as well. D.C. is quick to take our money, and it's not fair to ignore our needs. For what we pay in taxes, building some dog parks is barely a drop in the bucket for the increased revenues the city is receiving from our living here. We're already paying enough to cover our needs. We shouldn't have to pay extra on top of our high taxes.

Another point Marc overlooked is that dogs need to be exercised at least twice per day, and more frequently for puppies. Therefore, it's important to have dog parks in the neighborhoods in which we live. It's not feasible to drive across town (even for those who have cars) twice a day, before and after work, to exercise your dogs. We don't have that kind of time, and that's not a good environmental solution either. Walking your dog doesn't provide the same exercise. I'm a runner, but could never keep up with my off-leash dog at the park. Twenty minutes walking doesn't equal twenty minutes at the park. These jobs we have to get to are enabling us to pay the taxes that benefit ALL D.C. residents.

Another point of contention is the accusation that dog parks lead to unattended dog poop. D.C. dog owners taking their dogs to parks are vigilant about cleaning up after their dogs. We also pick up human poop left by people doing drugs in the parks at night, LOTS of litter left by kids and their parents, stray cat poop, and any other trash we see. We leave the parks in better condition than when we arrive.

This anti-dog park movement is very upsetting. It highlights the different value systems between the lower and middle classes. I'm very concerned about the effect on D.C. schools. Many of us are dog owners and either parents of small children or soon-to-be parents. I don't want to raise my children in a city that doesn't support our value systems, and I certainly don't want them going to a school system that doesn't support our values and needs. This lack of support from D.C. government for the middle class is exactly the reason our suburban friends think we're nuts to live here. What happens when our children are school age? Do we move to the suburbs to avoid these types of battles in the schools? We can't afford private schools, and D.C. public schools can't succeed without the middle class. So does the middle class leave the city when they have kids and let D.C. continue to flounder? If D.C. government wants to keep its middle class, then it needs to meet our needs.

Posted by: DC Citizen | July 24, 2007 11:36 AM

this is a pretty thorough discussion of the issue. So thanks to you all.

parks are community assets and it would be great if communities could manage them with some sort of consensus.

I'm annoyed by Fisher's framing this as so adversarial. dog owners would like to share parks - but the regulations (and some community members) don't allow it. dog owners aren't trying to "take away" parkland. but we are trying to find a reasonable accommodation for our needs. as taxpayers and community members, that's just fair.

what's frustrating is to see how ill-used even the limited parkland and open space is in my neighborhood. the school yards and pocket parks and ball fields sit empty 99 percent of the time. I'm happy to find some other place to take my dog if kids are on the fields. but that's really really rare at 6:30am or 7pm when I take my dog out. why can't me and my dog run around and get some value out of these unused public assets?

Oh - and I'm religious about cleaning up after my dog. ALL the neighborhood dog owners that I know are. we don't like stepping in it anymore than you do. I'm not saying there aren't bad owners (and some bad dogs) - but please don't punish everyone for the sins of the few.

Posted by: logan circle dog owner | July 24, 2007 11:43 AM

What Mr. Fisher's article fails to provide the reader is a fair account of the positives associated with establishing more dog-friendly policies within the district. To begin with, properly exercised dogs do make better companions and better neighbors. Second, having a regular presence of any group of people in any park helps deter crime and that promotes safer parks for everyone. Lastly, allowing dog owners access to green space would help keep the public sidewalks a little cleaner and little less congested. All this is true.

In the article, Mr. Fisher points to a lovely triangle park as an example of the "privately run dog parks" around the city. Interestingly, he fails to mention the fact that there is only one official dog park in the entire district. All other green spaces are technically off limits to dog owners and potentially subject to fines and ticketing. So the question is asked, "Why, then, get the city government into the dog-management arena?" The answer is simple. By DC's own estimates, one in three households within the District are home to a dog which puts the number - not including those households home to more than one dog, like mine - at about 160,000 dogs. (How's that for a "cold splash of reality, Marc?")

What is at issue here is fairness. If gardeners can ask the public to share space to plant gardens because they can't do it at home, why are dog owners discouraged for asking the public to share space to responsibly exercise their dogs? If baseball leagues can request use of the parks during specific hours under the supervision of the Department of Parks and Recreation, why are dog owners not allowed equal treatment?

These are "public" spaces, correct?

Posted by: John B | July 24, 2007 11:43 AM

Marc, I'm ashamed that you're a fellow tribe member. All morning, my Jewish and non-Jewish friends have been upholding you as the pinnacle of injustice and stupidity. You're a shanda for the goyim.

Posted by: Anonymous for this | July 24, 2007 12:22 PM

Marc,

Do you know what's going on in the parks now? People already take their dogs off leash and run them. Sometimes the dogs run into the area where the kids are playing (and vice versa). No one is happy with this situation.

Setting up a part of the park that is exclusively for dogs and their owners (a sociable, congenial group who enjoy meeting in the parks) would -- at the same time -- establish an area that is exclusively for families, kids, and dog haters.

These two groups really don't want to mix. They want separate facilities. Why not make it easy for them to get what they want?

Posted by: KK | July 24, 2007 4:31 PM

The requirement that a potential dog park be rat-free is amusing. If the park isn't rat-free before the dogs get there, it will be afterwards. Some of the little terriers like Jack Russells were bred to hunt rats and are better at it than many cats.

As for loose dogs chasing children, that's why dog parks are fenced.

For the record, I have indoor cats and aren't enthusiastic about dogs, but am perfectly fine with dog parks.

Posted by: wma | July 24, 2007 5:38 PM

Why not build a fenced-in area for kids? Most of them are far more misbehaved than dogs. At least dog owners keep a closer eye on their dogs than parents do on their kids.

Posted by: Keeping it real | July 24, 2007 8:42 PM

vaherder, I heard collie meat is rather tough. Gotta put it in an crockpot and let it simmer for a few hours. But, if you shoot them right between the eyes, the heat from the bullet tenderizes the brain meat.

Posted by: Maryland | July 24, 2007 9:23 PM

For once I agree with Marc! How dog owners feel entitled to just run beautiful parkland (that they never lift a finger in maintaining) into the ground, is beyond me. They should find some piece of land or pavement that no one wants, fence it off and there's their dog park. Don't take land used by people that is beautiful, run the grass into dust, and pile poop into bins a mile high.

Posted by: agreed! | July 24, 2007 9:26 PM

Thanks for standing up for people instead of dogs, Mr. Fisher. I am a moderate income District resident, and I do not have my own private yard to enjoy. I wish to use public parks, like many others. The dog owners are browbeating politicians and other public officials to give up public land. The problem is particularly bad in Alexandria, Virginia where it seems that there are "Dog Exercise" areas galore. The parks are for people first.

Posted by: Jeff | July 25, 2007 8:50 AM

The biggest problem in establishing any kind of parks program in the District of Columbia is jurisdiction. Most of the green space east of the Anacostia River is controlled by the National Park Service, as is Rock Creek Park, and NPS has yet to establish rational policies for its many acres of urban parkland across the country. NPS policies that make sense at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon are absurd when applied to Lincoln Park and Dupont Circle.

Posted by: Mike Licht | July 25, 2007 9:17 AM

Again, dog parks aren't exclusively for dogs, they are for dog owners. Just like tennis courts are for tennis players. Both tennis players and dog owners are members of the tax-paying public, so building tennis courts and dog runs does not constitute "ripping away chunks" of public land and ceding them to special interests (no matter how hysterically you try to slant the issue). Dog runs, tennis courts, community gardens and playgrounds alike are facilities FOR PEOPLE to use for specific purposes (i.e. playing tennis or exercising their dogs). Case in point: no dogs have been agitating for dog parks--only members of the human tax-paying public. So for all you animal haters, please take a deep breath--the dog intelligencia isn't scheming to steal parks from inner-city children. People just want the opportunity to throw a frisbee to their dog in a few small areas of a few local parks, which seems totally reasonable once you get over the hyperventilation.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 25, 2007 10:16 AM

I disagree with the many posters who seem to argue that dog owners are these wonderful, attentive folks who keep an eye on their dogs and do a great job cleaning up after them. In my experience, dog owners converge on a park and then spend their time chatting with their friends, while their pets chase after other park patrons, destroy the grass, and poop and urinate all over the place.

I like the idea of dog parks simply so that dog owners would be forced to a limited and defined space, instead of allowing their pets to ruin the parks for the rest of us. However, in exchange for these dogs parks, I believe the city should increase the fines for violations of leash laws and for not picking up after a dog. And, I believe these laws should be vigorously enforced.

Posted by: cap hill | July 25, 2007 3:36 PM

I disagree with the many posters who seem to argue that dog owners are these wonderful, attentive folks who keep an eye on their dogs and do a great job cleaning up after them. In my experience, dog owners converge on a park and then spend their time chatting with their friends, while their pets chase after other park patrons, destroy the grass, and poop and urinate all over the place.

I like the idea of dog parks simply so that dog owners would be forced to a limited and defined space, instead of allowing their pets to ruin the parks for the rest of us. However, in exchange for these dogs parks, I believe the city should increase the fines for violations of leash laws and for not picking up after a dog. And, I believe these laws should be vigorously enforced.

Posted by: cap hill | July 25, 2007 3:36 PM

Here's where my confusion is. When my son was 18 months old he LOVED dogs. We cannot care for a dog in our home due to allergies, but primarily due to career and family time constraints. I would drive my son to a couple different dog parks or Rock Creek Park and he'd play with the dogs- which the owners LOVED. Why do people think dog parks are only for dog owners. That's like saying people don't bicycle or skateboard on the streets built for cars. It would really help if people stopped and thought a little bit before posting.

Posted by: DCer | July 25, 2007 4:13 PM

My problem with dog parks is that the majority of owners don't adequately train or supervise their dogs. Is there anything more annoying that a dog owner yelling, "don't worry, he's friendly!" as your 5-year-old is bowled over by a unleashed, 45 pound dog?

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 26, 2007 1:10 PM

Here we go again, people and their completely unhealthy fascination and attachment with a wild animal that craps everywhere, smell, bite people, bark all night long, and piss on every tree that they pass. If you love animals that much, move to Africa - I'm sure the other wild animals would love to sleep in your bed with you. Civilized people like me do not like being hounded (haha) and aggreived and having to pay for dog parks driven by your desperate need for affection.

Posted by: Bluez | July 26, 2007 6:23 PM

Before moving to the District I lived in Center City Philadelphia for 10 years - an area with far less parkland then downtown DC - and there were FOUR dog runs. All were set up by the City and maintained and funded by dog owners. It is ridiculous that the District cannot carve out space for dog runs. There should be a dog run right in front of the Capitol on the Mall!!!!!

For all you dog haters - yes - my dog is more important then you and deserves parkland more than you. Period.

Posted by: Dan | July 27, 2007 2:42 PM

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