Neighborhood Watch: Toddlers and Pitbulls and Astroturf, Oh My!
The Issue: The community is already, um, barking about a dog park that opened last month on 17th and S Street. The astroturf park was established by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and is maintained by the non-profit Circle Dogs DC, which opened it before a set of rules was established. At an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting to deal with the canine-related backlash this week, issues raised included: the number of dogs allowed in the park (optimal number was calculated to be 12.2), the distinction between dog toys and tennis balls, and whether humping is an owner-control issue or a reason to keep out un-neutered dogs. But according to Borderstan, the meeting hasn't yet resolved two important questions: Why are children still allowed to play in the park? And who exactly will be dealing with neighbor's complaints in the future?
Dogs, Dogs, Dogs! The original petition for the dog park states: “We do not believe that dogs are more important than people, but we do believe that dog owners are equal to other park patrons.” On that note, Circle Dogs DC has supported the notion of a “culture of responsibility”—making sure dog-owners (who preferred to be called “guardians”) respect hours, curb barking, etc. The group says that once more people are involved on its board, it shouldn’t be difficult to enforce rules. The park is undoubtedly a success, at least by one measure: ANC 2B commissioner Bob Meehan told City Desk: “Sometimes there are 20 to 30 dogs in the park at one time.”
Rules, Rules, Rules! But neighbors are concerned that dog-owners are failing to self-police, and DC Circle Dogs isn’t big enough (i.e., four volunteer board members) to handle all the issues. This has left DPR National Park Service to pick up the slack—a solution that, as in the case of opening and closing the area, doesn’t always work. Others contend dogs aren’t the real issue, children are. Says Meehan: “Sometimes parents treat it like a petting zoo.” Matt, commenting on Borderstan, adds: “So…it’s just fine for parents to place toddlers on the ground with strange dogs running around in all directions. Have we lost our minds?”
Next Step: ANC 2B passed a resolution this week dealing with the opening/closing hours issue, and there's a proposed meeting in one or two months. In terms of children, “it’s against the rules for dogs to be in children parks. It’s not against the rules for [supervised children] to play with dogs," says Meehan. He adds that, "The [Tuesday meeting] was the first one where dog-owners and neighbors were listening to each other! It was also the most constructive meeting in which nothing was accomplished.”
Photo of park by Jess Erfer, Creative Commons Attribution License