With just three dog parks available citywide, some Raleigh dog owners have taken to creating their own pooch playgrounds in park facilities built for far different purposes.
The city parks department says it gets frequent complaints that dogs are roaming – and relieving themselves – freely on city playgrounds, tennis courts and athletic fields. Animal control officers have issued about 100 citations in the past year to pet owners for violating leash and waste clean-up laws.
That has prompted Raleigh’s appointed parks advisory board to look at banning pets from all athletic facilities and playgrounds in Raleigh parks. The board will hold a public hearing Wednesday before issuing a recommendation to the City Council.
“There’s concerns that there are certain areas where dogs aren’t welcome,” said Mark Turner, who chairs the board. “Playing out on the ball fields, you’ll wind up finding these presents left by dogs, and kids shouldn’t have to deal with that.”
Parks officials worry that unleashed dogs roaming among children at play pose a safety hazard and that a proliferation of animal droppings represents a “public health risk.”
City rules already require park visitors to clean up after their pets, and unleashed animals are allowed only behind the fences of Raleigh’s three dog parks. But the proposed ban goes a step further, allowing the city to post “no dogs allowed” signs at entrances to playgrounds, athletic fields and basketball courts. Even on a leash, Fido would have to watch ball games and kids at play from outside the fence.
Some dog owners say that goes too far.
“I think it’s a little ridiculous if your dog is on a leash,” said Zach McKinney, who was watching his golden retriever play at Oakwood Dog Park on Thursday afternoon. He thinks the city should enforce the rules it already has.
But other dog park regulars say the new rules might help. “You never know what an animal could possibly do” on a playground, said Oakwood resident Doris Stanley.
Some Raleigh residents must drive up to 15 miles to find the nearest dog park, which can make it tempting to ignore the leash law.
Raleigh is in the midst of a 20-year parks planning process, and building more dog parks was a priority among 800 residents surveyed in January. About 31 percent said they regularly visit a dog park.
Despite the clamor for canine recreation, don’t expect to see more dog parks anytime soon. “There are no immediate plans because there is no available funding for additional dog parks,” Parks Superintendent Wayne Schindler said.
And even with a dog park nearby, some spurn the mulched pet playgrounds for the lush green fields of sports. McKinney says he often sees dogs roaming the ball fields next to the Oakwood dog park. Because trees dot the dog area, he suspects the reason for the rule-breaking is simple: a better place to play fetch.