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 May 2010 - Nr. 5

My Dog Teaches … About Parks, Poop and Litter

Hunny by David McKagueAs a society, it seems we are fixated on handling our problems with punitive measures only. The difficulty with this approach is that we often end up penalizing everyone, not just those few who are creating the trouble in the first place.

If we don’t clearly define the problem we want to solve and don’t tackle it head on, even apparently simply solved problems can get hugely complicated. Take, for example, the idea of having dogs in parks. (First of all, when I was growing up, this was never even considered to be a problem; along with the kids, there were always plenty of dogs running around in our parks.) The park used to be a place where families could escape to enjoy the natural environment and they would naturally bring their pets along with them for some unrestrained playtime. Yet today, it is becoming the norm for municipalities to restrict dogs. It hasn’t quite got to the point where it is commonplace for them to place an outright ban on dogs in parks (though this has happened in a few areas), but it is now very common to find that dogs cannot be let off leash. Enforcement isn’t restricted to busy parks; it is often applied against those who let their dogs run free in sparsely used areas. It is also used against those dog owners who have friendly dogs perfectly under control and who are not in any way infringing on others in the parks.

Of course, there are people who are afraid of dogs or who simply don’t care to be around them and it is for them that these restrictions are brought in. But there are easy solutions to accommodate both these people and dog owners… create leash-free areas within existing parks and/or create separate dog parks. Voila!

Not so fast. That is much too easy. It seems that logic doesn’t trump emotion when we can have a good old-fashioned acrimonious catfight. Suggest designating an area for dogs in an existing park and watch the fur fly. Even a proposal to convert unused land for the purpose seems to bring out the most vehement detractors.

Objections to dogs being in parks generally come down to a couple of factors: 1) that they are likely to go around biting kids and other people and 2) that they will foul the parks with dog poop.

With regard to the first point: sufficiently exercised, unrestrained dogs in neutral territory such as a park are not a danger worth worrying about. Period. For those who don’t believe me and would still be too nervous in such a situation, sections of the park can be fenced off. (Though from my perspective, this is more important for keeping dogs such as beagles, who tend to follow a scent, from wandering off than it is to protect people from dog bites – those inside the fence with the dogs are certainly not concerned about being bitten.)

I will concede that the second issue with dog feces can be a problem that does need to be dealt with, especially as our parks become more and more crowded. I consider myself to be among the vast majority of dog owners who find it objectionable that a few owners aren’t responsible enough to pick up after their pets. Although it’s not the worst thing in the world, it is certainly an annoyance to step in dog poop and it does take away some of the enjoyment of coming to the park.

As allowing a dog some time to exercise off leash is actually a sign of a responsible dog owner, I would much rather see enforcement directed at this second problem. Fine those who don’t pick up after their pets. Better yet, give them an option of paying a fine or spending fifteen minutes picking up other dog poop in the area. After all, the fine will do nothing to clean up the parks and doesn’t even guarantee that the person fined will remove the poop for which he is being fined.

We could extend this idea to littering, which is certainly a comparable problem to dog waste in our parks. Those who foul the environment with their waste could be given the opportunity to help clean up the litter in the park (or help pay someone else to clean it up by a fine.) Approached this way, I’m sure we would soon have very clean parks.

Our parks need cleaning up? Let’s confront the problem directly and clean them up … and in the process, why not enlist those few who are contributing to the problem to be part of the solution.

Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:

Editor’s note: I would like to encourage dog lovers everywhere to start a PETITION to have this law thrown out or revised to such a form where justice prevails. SFR.

Email to David McKague
David McKague talks about the pit-bull or pit bulls, pets, dogs, the duress put upon dog and the owners, especially through laws in Ontario, Canada, that affect and encroach on rights and freedoms of the individual, human rights, reputation of individuals and owners. David stresses the importance of being responsible and understanding when dealing with pets.

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