City Desk

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

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  • dog guardian

    Not only is the 4 volunteer board too small, it seems they can't grasp what their responsibilities are enough to offer a game plan.

    Those of us who really do care about the park, dog behavior, and the neighborhood (you know, responsible dog owning neighbors) need to be part of an organization that has a plan. I find it hard to believe that Circle Dogs formed on the day the park opened.

  • Joel

    So, is that an offer to volunteer and help them?

  • dcvoterboy

    Dana can you explain what role the National Park Service has with a DC Department of Parks and Recreation park?

    The park is maintained by DPR, and the Park Rangers are DPR staff. Please make the correction.

  • dog park boy

    also, as mentioned on Borderstan, there's a full set of rules on DPR's site:,A,1239,Q,637528.asp

  • Dana Liebelson

    Correction made, thanks.

  • dog guardian

    I think she means the urban park rangers. They and a volunteer (not Circle Dogs) currently try to make it as close to open/close time as possible - the rangers have always been very nice when I've run in to them.

    And I'd love to get involved a coherent, transparent, well run (or at least organized) organization. I won't hold my breath, though.

  • Jessica

    Yay (I think) for using a picture of my dog playing with one of her best buds...and one that I took, no less!

  • Jane

    Dogs are nothing more than pests. They should be exterminated along with the common cockroach.

  • Joel

    So that's a "no" then, dog guardian. Claims that you "really do care about the park," lots of advice and sharp criticism for the citizen org behind it, but a dodge (with some additional patronizing comments for the volunteers) when asked if you'll join them or help in any manner.

    Only in DC, folks.

  • dog guardian

    To be honest, you don't know the extent of my involvement with the organization past, present, or future. Since, you know, you don't know who I am, how long I've lived here, or my relationship to the board.

    As I said - I'm happy to be part of an organized group with a plan. Whenever such a group surfaces, I'll be there 110%. Just not on the 'sign committee'.

  • Marie Antoinette

    oh get over yourself

  • dog guardian

    It's easy to say that when you don't pick up your dogs crap, then complain about stepping in it.

  • IMGoph

    one other small correction—it's S Street, not South Street.

  • Wally

    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."

    They clearly believe dogs are equal to children from the comments at the meeting.

    Uhhm, Children are citizens, dogs are not. Children, and I mean other people's children are also explicit citizens and explicit responsibilities of the polis, when it comes to educations d common recreation facilities -- dogs and other animals are not.

    Everyone who signed the petition got the use of parks paid for by the rest of citizenry when they were children. No dog grows up to be a tax paying citizen and pay for the next generation.

    I don't have a dog or a child but I understand my responsibility as a taxpayer to provide schools and parks for children. I have no such responsibility to pay for the creation of exclusive use areas for dogs especially in limited public space.

  • Kyle

    I was at an ANC 2B meeting when the idea was being heavily advocated by a dog group two years ago. The group claimed 250+ members in the Dupont area.

    How is 20 to 30 dogs in the park at a time a success according to Meehan when hew was THERE at the meeting when the advocates promised up and down that they would enforce all the rules and the rule is 12 dogs max? That is a failure, not a success.

    They had a paper organization that they claimed had a board, officers, meetings etc. Now that the number of dogs has become a pollution, smell and noise issue the solution they are offering is to blame it on children (WTF!) and to relax the rules they agreed to so the area wouldn't become the neighborhood nuisance that it has become.

    Problem: People in there after 9 pm with scores of barking dogs? Dog park users' proposed solution: make the hours later than they promised when neighborhood agree.

    Problem: Dog OWNERS' (and it is dog OWNERS bringing children) children being knocked over by dogs. Solution: Dog Park users' solution blame Children.

    Problem the place has too any dog and stinks: Dog Park users' Solution, blame anyone but themselves.

    Here is the REAL solution: Increase the dog license fee to $200 and actively check and FINE ANYONE with an unlicensed dog.

    These dog parks are expensive use of limited city resources, I am sick of the whining by the owners. I used to eat lunch at my small local park. Due to the stink from dog urine and feces I can no longer eat lunch there.

    I don't know where Meehan gets the idea it is agianst the rules for dogs to use "children's parks". he means the very small portion in parks that are children playgrounds. People with dogs can enjoy 99% of the city parks, they just can't be unleashed. Peopel without children also can enjoy citi parks including playgorund areas.

    The only exclusive use areas are the dog parks.