Keep dogs off Raleigh’s athletic fields

May 20, 2013 

The City of Raleigh’s parks advisory board has made a sensible and overdue proposal: ban pets from all city-owned athletic facilities and playgrounds.

It seems like a good idea: Take your cooped-up dog to a nearby empty ball field and let him run. The problem is that after people let their dogs go, the dogs often, well, go, and not every owner cleans up.

The result is a mess for people who use athletic fields for what they are intended: athletics. Now the City of Raleigh’s parks advisory board has made a sensible and overdue proposal: banning pets from all city-owned athletic facilities and playgrounds.

It’s unfortunate that such a ban is necessary, but irresponsible dog owners have made it so. The city parks department deals with frequent complaints about owners who don’t clean up after their dogs. Animal-control officers have issued about 100 citations in the past year to owners who ignore laws requiring that dogs be kept on leashes and cleaned up after. Our nonprofessional estimate is that enforcement has hit about 1 percent of the offenders.

The advisory board will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the city government complex before issuing a recommendation to the City Council. That likely will bring out some dog lovers who advocate their dogs running free and ignore the problems that creates for dog’s best friend.

Banning dogs from athletic fields is common sense and hardly a bias against the nation’s most popular pets. Portland, Ore., was recently named the nation’s best dog city in a survey by a real estate website. The city also bans dogs from athletic fields.

Here’s why, as published on the city of Portland’s website:

“Dog feces are also a big problem for sports groups. At some sites, practice can only begin after coaches and parents spend significant time removing dog poop from the field. ... Serious infections can result when dog feces come in contact with an open wound: young soccer players fall down and scrape knees all the time.”

In the longer term, dog owners must be given more options for letting their pets exercise. Portland, for instance, has 32 dog parks. Raleigh has three.

Dog parks need to move up the city’s priority list. But in the meantime, residents should not be allowed to create their own dog parks on athletic fields.

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