Monday, March 26, 2012

Unexpected Benefits of Dog Parks

Photo from South Loop Dog PAC

We all know about the benefits for dogs in dog parks (like socialization, excursive, stimulation, etc) but what about some of those less obvious reasons?  Dog parks offer a host of benefits...even to those that don't have a canine companion or choose not to use the park at all.  Here are our top three favorite unexpected benefits to building a dog park.

1.  Green Space - Trees give us necessary oxygen and plants have been proven over and over again to make people happy, literally.  Wouldn't you rather a vacant lot be turned into a place for greenery than remain vacant, weed filled, and a collection space for debris and trash?

2.  Less Poop - As you know, abandoned dog poo is a problem (if you don't already know - just check out South Poop to learn all about the South Loop poop epidemic), but give all those doggies a place to play and poop, and their owners some free bags, and they'll be less poop on the sidewalks.  Plus, dog owners are more likely to pick up their dogs poop (or even someone else's) inside a dog park than a random lot or sidewalk.

3.  Safer Parks for Kids - A common parent complaint is about the danger off leash dogs pose to children playing in parks.  They're worried Fido will knock over their little tot as he frolics in the grass.  With a designated place for dogs to play, kids can roam without fear of being disturbed by dogs, and vice versa.  Running dogs probably don't like kids getting in their way either.   And building more and more dog parks mean that people will be able to use them with ease and not have to resort to letting their dogs off leash in people parks.

Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of dog parks?

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Create a Dog Park

Here's another great page from Planet Dog on how to get a dog park built in your community.  We're well on our way, but this list of 13 steps is a good reminder of just how much work it actually takes to get a dog park built.

The dog lovers at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in San Mateo, California, have developed the following strategies for successfully getting a dog park created:

1.  Start with a core group of committed dog park activists
Talk with a half-dozen other dog lovers who are concerned about the lack of off-leash spaces.  These may be people you already know - or you can put a notice in the local paper to find more dog-friendly folks.
2.  Hold a public meeting
Once the core group is in agreement, a larger community meeting will help you get the word our to supporters and solicit input and suggestions.  Encourage people to write letters in support of a dog park to public officials and the media and to make presentations to community groups whose backing would be valuable.
3.  Educate your fellow dog owners on the need to be responsible
People who neglect to pick up after their dog or who allow and aggressive or unsocialized animal to run loose can do a lot of damage to your cause and your ultimate chances of success.   Your mission should be twofold: establishing a off leash dog exercise area and promoting responsible canine care.
4.  Write a clear mission statement
Write a mission statement that details the need and purpose of the park, stressing the benefits to dog owners, their canine companions, and the greater community.  A suggested statement: To establish a fenced-in, off-leash dog park where well-behaved canine citizens can exercise in a clean, safe environment without endangering or annoying people, property, or wildlife.  To develop a beautiful, well maintained space open to all dog lovers and friends who are willing to uphold the park's rules and restrictions.  To view this park as a community project designed to satisfy the needs of dog owners and non-dog owners alike.
5.  Demonstrate Need
Gather statistics on the dogs and their people n your community.  How many dogs would use a dog park?  What are the demographics of the people in our city?  Who currently uses city parks - and who doesn't?  Downplay the "dog factor" and emphasize people issues.  Remember, dogs don't play taxes or vote.
6.  Demonstrate Support
Activists found that a simply worded request circulated on a petition, helped convince city officials that there was indeed both a need and widespread public support for a responsibly run dog park.  Place petition gatherers at supermarkets, pet supply stores, and other high-traffic areas.  Enlist the support of local veterinarians, groomers, dog walkers and others who have a real Internet in having a community filled with healthy, well-socialized dogs.  Involve them in gathering petitions, writing letters to the editor of local papers, and generally spreading the word.
7.   Create a Budget
Determine how much it will cost to construct and maintain the park - include costs for grass, fences, garbage removal, lawn maintenance, drinking water, field drainage, lighting, benches, and a pooper scooper area.  Some cities are willing and able to finance a dog park; others would rather share the cost with a group committed to maintaining the park and ensuring the park's rules.
8.  Solicit the input and seek the approval of significant organizations in your community.
Talk with the proposed park's neighbors before talking to city hall.  As soon as someone puts up a serious red flag, pay attention to it; don't ignore it or fight it, and try to come up with a solution.  If it really is impossible to resolve at least you'll know what you're up against.   
9.   Be prepared to address a range of concerns...
...including the risk of dog fights, dog bites, increased noise level, parking and traffic problems, and liability and maintenance issues,  Explain why some of these are non-issues and have a plan to address the ones - such as traffic and noise - that are legitimate
10.  Ask your local SPCA for help and a letter of support.
11.  Get to know local officials
Your city council members and the director of your Department of Parks and Recreations.  Attend meetings, join them at fundraisers.  Find our what they need from your to move the dog park forward.
12.  Request a hearing with the city government
When you're ready, request a hearing to discuss your proposal.  Have two or three carefully selected, knowledgeable, and articulate members of your group present your plan, clearly expressing its many benefits to the community and calmly addressing any concerns.
13.  Be patient
Dealing with city government is rarely a quick deal.  Though you may find yourself running with Fido in the dog park of your dreams within a year, it could just as easily take several years to create.

As always, we'll keep you updated on the latest for the Fred Anderson Dog Park!

Monday, March 12, 2012

10 Reasons Dog Haters Should Support Dog Parks

Here's a great excerpt from the book Planet Dog by Sandra and Harry Choron.  It's a greenly colored book full of dog trivia and interesting stories and helpful tips.  If you know someone who is against dog parks, email them this post!

10 Reasons Dog Haters Should Support Dog Parks

Gary Merrick of Southay Dog Parks writes "One of the things that has surprised me since getting involved in promoting dog parks is the fact that some dog haters and off-leash advocates are both arguing the same points from two different perspectives.  The solution is the same for both parties."  Here are some reasons that dog haters should not oppose off-leash dog parks:

1.  Having well-exercised and mentally stimulated dogs means less barking, less destruction, and generally fewer dog-related problems for your neighborhood.  Wouldn't it be nice if your next-door neighbor could do something to quiet Spot's barking.

2.  Since dogs would have their own park, parents of young children wouldn't have to worry about dogs in the playground.

3.  No more dog poop in the middle of the soccer field.

4.  We could finally move one step closer to reducing the number of serious dog attacks by noting that statistics don't change after implementing a dog park.  The police and Animal Control can then concentrate their efforts on the aggressive, unsocialized dogs that actually cause these problems.

5.  An uninvited canine participant would no longer interrupt your outdoor activities.

6.  Dogs behind a fence could no longer bite you, attack you, or run through your yard.

7.  Dog-related noise would be limited to park hours (generally seven a.m. until sunset).

8.  Depending on the location and circumstance, the presence of dogs may deter crime or loitering.  Dogs are all bad aren't they?

9.  Dog haters won't have to spend nearly as much time calling animal control.

10.  Everyone can enjoy a more harmonious existence.

What do you think?  How would you help dog haters see the benefits to them of a dog park?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What does "Curb Your Dog" mean?

Chicago dog owners probably see some sort of "Curb Your Dog" sign almost everyday.  But what does it mean?  Our friends at the South Poop blog have the answer:

The phrase ‘Curb Your Dog’ originated in the 1930′s in New York City.  Citing (from the Chicago Daily Tribune, 4 December 1938, “Mostly About Dogs” by Bob Becker, pg. F10: “Curb Your Dog” Good Advice:
“In New York, truly a doggy city, an ordinance has been passed to make for a cleaner city and at the same time compel the indifferent dog owner to consider public welfare. The ordinance demands that dogs be curbed. There are signs everywhere with the request, “Curb your dog.” It means that owners cannot allow their pets to soil buildings, nor can a dog make a nuisance of himself on the grass of the parkway or on the sidewalk. As a result there are practically no complaints about the dogs soiling sidewalks or grassy places which the public uses.”
That is, ‘Please Curb your Dog’ meant ‘Don’t let your dog do its business on the sidewalk. Let your dog do it in the road’.
Urban Dictionary offers this definition:

How does this translate to you?  It basically means, let your dog do his business in the "gutters" of the street and not in the middle of the sidewalk and clean up after your pet.  Moral of the story?  Don't be the disrespectful dog neighbor that let's your dog run wild and doesn't clean up after them.
You've also probably noticed that the Chicago Park District Doggie has gotten a face lift.  He's lost his heavy chain leash in favor of a chic-er look.  See the before (left) and current (right) signs posted around dog parks, parks, and public spaces.  
For a more in depth analysis on what exactly "curb your dog" means, make sure to check out South Poop.