in Parks and Rec, Raleigh

Dog restrictions

I was at work Friday, working my way through an increasing pile of work when I took a brief moment to check my Twitter account.

Yikes! WRAL’s Twitter feed had the headline “Raleigh considering pet ban in parks, on greenways.”

That’s just ridiculous and wrong.

The news media had latched on to a city press release that had a similarly-misleading headline: “Parks Committee Seeking Input on Possible Pet Ban in City Parks.” Though the gist of the press release was correct, the media saw “pet ban in parks” and assumed the worst.

Working as fast as I could, I tweeted back to WRAL that their headline was wrong and their story was misleading. To their credit, they promptly corrected the story but not before many, many of their Twitter followers had a tizzy.

The N&O’s city reporter, Colin Campbell, soon called me up for an impromptu interview. The story the N&O ran was far closer to the truth.

So what is the truth? Responding to citizen complaints and staff input, Raleigh’s Parks board was tasked by the city council to study what might be done to restrict dogs from certain areas of parks, such as athletic fields and playgrounds. Many citizens have reported aggressive dogs approaching their kids at playgrounds, and dogs have made a mess of several athletic fields, affecting the kids and adults who play there. Staff informed the board at its meeting last week that some of the city’s park playgrounds are apparently being used to train fighting dogs. Maintenance staff have found teeth marks in the leather swingset seats where some dog owners have apparently been hanging their dogs to strengthen their jaws for fighting.

So, we’re looking at whether keeping dogs off athletic fields and playgrounds makes sense. Dogs would still be welcome elsewhere and on greenways, too.

So, why is the Parks board’s greenway committee looking into this? Only because of convenience. Raleigh is not looking to ban dogs from greenways. One thing that might be considered with regards to dogs and greenways is a rule that dogs must be on a leash six feet long or shorter. That, however, is a separate issue.

The Parks committee will hold a public comment meeting this Wednesday in the municipal building (at the time of this writing). It may turn out the meeting gets moved somewhere bigger, but no other venue has been mentioned yet. Also on Wednesday, I will be discussing the possible dog restrictions on WRAL’s morning news, possibly around 6:10-6:15 AM. I hope I am coherent on live TV at that time of the morning, and I hope I remain coherent for the public comment meeting twelve hours later!

Bonus link: This afternoon the N&O’s editorial page weighed in on the side of restricting dogs in an editorial that possibly will run in tomorrow’s paper. While I appreciate the support the paper is showing the Parks board, I have to say that I’m personally not certain which way I’m leaning on this issue. Many times I’ve taken the dog with the kids and me as we’ve walked to nearby Lions Park. I’ll tie the dog to a bench on the playground, have a seat there, and watch the kids as they play. Never am I away from my dog and never is the dog allowed to roam freely.

I feel I’m a responsible dog owner. Would what I did be considered against the law? Should it be? I look forward to hearing what the public has to say at Wednesday’s meeting.