Saturday, May 28, 2005

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Minneapolis joins the growing number of cities that are setting aside parks where dogs can run and play off-leash. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

For nearly two decades, persistent, passionate dog owners have petitioned and pestered regional and city park officials to let more outdoor space go to the dogs.

“The best guess is that nearly 50 percent of the homeowners in Eden Prairie own dogs. … You’re putting your head in the sand if you don’t recognize that [an off-leash park] is a new demand,” said Bob Lambert, Eden Prairie’s park and recreation director, where one off-leash park is operating and another is on the way. “People will argue that little Johnny has greater needs than Fido. But Fido is part of the family, too, and his needs are just as great as Johnny’s.”

And it’s not just Eden Prairie.

Consider the numbers: Nearly one-third of metro homeowners have dogs, slightly less than the 36 percent of the households that include children. But the number of households with children is projected to shrink over the next 30 years, and park officials have taken notice. Acres of land are being fenced so Rover can romp without offending those who don’t want a beagle bounding at them, said Tom McDowell, director of program and facility services for Three Rivers Park District.


As soon as an off-leash park opens, it’s instantly busy, Lambert said. The 16-acre Dakota County park near Coates has become a new favorite doggie getaway for Julie McNulty and her sister-in-law, Kim Mosier. The county opened the off-leash park last summer with volunteers.

“This is so wonderful,” Mosier said. “It’s so open. It has trails in the woods. It’s a more natural setting for a dog.”

And owners.

“Most owners and dogs don’t do well with the leash,” said Heideman. “Dogs choke, gag and pull against it. It turns into a terrible ordeal to walk a dog on a leash. … They’re meant to run. They’re social creatures.”

As McNulty tended to her 2-year-old son, Levi, her chocolate Labrador retriever romped with Mosier’s dog, a Rottweiler and Akita mix. “With leash laws in the city, it’s hard for dogs to be dogs and do what dogs do,” Mosier said.

My friend Brian has been a leading proponent of the off-leash dog park movement in Albuquerque, and he’s been met with a surprising amount of success from the glacial entity known as City Government. I’m glad to see that other cities are getting on board with this.