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Dog Power Dog Parks Resources
by Claudia Kawczynska Author Bio:
Claudia Kawczynska, the editor
of The Bark, is also a Berkeley
Waterfront Commissioner and
served on the Task Force for
Dogs in Parks. She is happy to
announce that after an eight-year-
long effort the Berkeley city
council voted unanimously to
approve the sixteen-acre off-
leash park.



Websites & e-mails:
SFDog

FIDO

ArlingtonDogs

NYCDOG


Good dog park links:
Dog-Play: Tips on Dog Parks

San Francisco SPCA, publicinfo@sfspca.org


Papers:
Mary Battiata's article
"Lassie Go Home,"
Washington Post Magazine,
May 30, 1999.

"The Case for Space:
An Analysis of Off-Leash
Recreation Areas in
Los Angeles"

Freeplay

"Public Open Space and Dogs"
PetNet

"Companions in the Park:
Laurel Canyon Dog Park,"
Landscape, Vol. 31,
No. 3, 1992.


Videos:
Santa Barbara DogPac,
"Your Dog Off Leash"
805.967.3111
a donation would be
appreciated.

"The Point Isabel
Video Project"
$12, check to
Point Isabel Video
Mitch Baum
3871 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611


Catalog:
Delta Society:
1.800/869.6898










Anti-Dog Predjudice
In the beginning there was a dog, a ball and a piece of green…
Many of you already come together at your favorite de facto dog park daily to do what every responsible dog person knows must be done—exercise and socialize your dogs. We all strive to give our dogs a happy life and enough stimulation so they poop out (in more ways than one). But strictly enforced leash laws can really zap the fun out of this innocent activity, turning many of us into lawbreakers. We aren’t deterred, because we care more about our dog’s recreational needs than we do about our legal standing, but we are forced into playing hide-and-seek games with the authorities. Many of us no doubt feel like Kevin Kraus of Washington DC: “I have a very well-trained dog so I leave him off leash and he responds and stays with me and it isn’t a problem, but I still wound up getting fined. I said this is ridiculous. I know that I’m breaking the law, but at the same time I feel as if this offense is not a problem.” Kevin’s experience is being repeated in parks everywhere, and so dog people are organizing and forming activist groups, as he did in his Dupont Circle park. No matter how vigilant the authorities are—in New York they’re equipping citizen-snitches with cell phones!—dog people are united in their desire to get a piece of green!

Off-leash recreation is turning into one of the biggest imbroglios in park management, and one of the most politically challenging and hotly debated items for local legislators. It’s inspiring participatory democracy at its finest, with off-leash advocates, many political novices, pulling out all stops to earn the right to exercise their dogs—and it also has local politicians running for the hills. According to the March issue of Governing, most of these fights have much in common, and it cautions local legislators that “if you thought that taxes were the only issue that made voters’ blood boil, then you haven’t had a dog issue appear on the public agenda lately.” Such off-leash activism gave birth to The Bark, so we thought it was time that we responded to your requests and offer tips on how to get and keep a dog park. The information we present here has been gleaned through discussions with off-leash advocates and park administrators, from studies and reports, and from working in the trenches in this struggle for the past five years. This report will run in two issues of The Bark, beginning with the following discussion on “taking up the banner”—including development of political action plans and position papers. In the next Bark we’ll focus on the nuts and bolts of the issues involved with implementation; topics will include planning, designing and operating dog areas. Both segments will be supplemented with accounts by experts that you can use to guide your efforts (fuller texts will be available on www.thebark.com/whatsnew). But we won’t stop there. Dog parks have been, and will continue to be, an ongoing feature in The Bark—we would love to hear your frontline stories so we can learn from your examples too.

So what’s the beef?
De facto off-leash parks have been around for a long time, and in the past this has worked out fairly well. What schoolyard doesn’t have its doggie regulars playing fetch long after the kids’ soccer game has ended? But lately a lot has changed. Now it seems that “being anti-dog is the socially permissible prejudice,” says Pam Ferguson, who spearheaded the first dog park campaign in Berkeley in 1985. In her insightful Washington Post article, Mary Battiata points out that leash laws were mostly enacted in the 1980s by “local governments with no intention of strict enforcement. Rather, there still was a tacit understanding that if dog owners wanted to run their dogs off leash, they would do so in out-of-the-way places where they wouldn’t disturb anyone.” But in the ’90s we are going through one of those horrid “paradigm shifts,” with a number of factors affecting how far the shift will go. There is increased competition for scarce green space from a number of other public park users—inline skaters, picnickers and exercise-driven adults wanting to play “ball” sports. There are more people living in “planned” developments (many in the Sun Belt states or in exurbs) that didn’t put dog parks into their master plans. And, as Battiata suggests, urban areas’ “in-fill development” is taking away green space, and “the ‘echo’ baby boomers are filling parks with strollers and toddlers once again,” setting up the overplayed children vs. dog conflict. There is criticism leveled in NYC that people are favoring bigger dogs (Labs are the most popular dog today, while in the ’50s it was the Cocker Spaniel). Add to all this a society that is becoming increasingly less tolerant in general, with road rage spilling over into dogs-in-park rage, and your de facto dog park can vanish in the wink of an eye.

There is truth in the adage “don’t fix what ain’t broke.” Perhaps this isn’t the time for you to venture into the dog park minefield—you might want to hang back to see what happens. But leash law enforcement is usually complaint-driven, so it only takes one irate citizen’s angry complaining and that schoolyard-doubling-as-dog-park can come to a screeching halt—as dog lovers in Sacramento recently found out. In Berkeley a scat-obsessed citizen with a penchant for high drama dials 911 to report dogs in “his” public park, pooping on “his” grass. This staunch dog-hater gave a slide presentation at a Task Force meeting showing offending poop piles with little white flags he’d stuck in them, neatly dated, to demonstrate how uncivil dog people can be … umph. But as unreasonable as a 911 call for dogs pooping may be, this man’s complaints were answered by swift police action and he managed to make life miserable for that park’s dog people.

… and the wheel keeps turning, turning, turning …
Changing public policy and amending laws isn’t all that easy. It can take an enormous amount of grassroots effort, aided by familiarity with governmental procedures and the tenacity of 10,000 Terriers (definitely the most important factor of all). Leaders in the movement have a lot in common with dogs: their staying-power, ability to focus and determination would make any Border Collie proud. Attendance at dull and often frustrating committee meetings and public hearings, letter writing, petitionings and buoying up flagging volunteers might consume years of your time, with an attendant loss of sanity. But if you think you are ready for the challenge and promise to keep your good sense of humor, here is some information that might help you along.


CONTINUE to A Doggedly Determined Political Action Plan...




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