Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Give canines, owners a place to run, play off leash

By the Advocate Editorial Board
June 24, 2014 at 1:24 a.m.

Dog owners are often passionate about their pets. Every day, they spend time walking, feeding, playing and spending time with their dogs. Victoria has a variety of parks and trails pet owners can use, but dogs must remain on leashes.

Thankfully, the Victoria Parks and Recreation Department has a plan. When the department asked Victoria residents what they wanted, it compiled a list of 29 items from the replies. A dog park was priority No. 3 on the list, and we can understand why. Dog parks are popular places in other cities, so it stands to reason that one would be appreciated in Victoria as well. The city of Victoria has a leash law that restricts residents from letting their dogs run free. A dog park would be a safe place for residents to play with their animals off the leash and in a larger area than they might have available at home. In addition, the park would allow owners to properly socialize their pets in an environment specifically meant for dogs.

But a new dog park is not something that comes without cost, and some residents have expressed concerns that money should not be taken away from the city's other needs to create a dog park. It is true, Victoria has a variety of needs, including street repairs that are long overdue. Yes, the city needs to and is currently developing plans to address these important needs. However, the city also has a responsibility to create and maintain an environment that offers good quality of life for its residents.

Unfortunately, a dog park is not as cheap a project as some would think. It isn't just a fenced-off area with a few benches and lots of open space for dogs to play. In a previous article, Colby Van Gundy, Victoria Parks and Recreation director, spoke about a dog park he helped build in a city outside of Dallas. In addition to a strong fence, the park needs cleaning stations, irrigation and more. The American Kennel Club recommends dog parks be equipped with double gates to prevent dogs from escaping; have plenty of shade, water and seating; parking close to the site and, if possible, a separate area for small dogs and large dogs.

Considering the high priority placed on a dog park through public requests, perhaps it would be possible to create a private/public partnership. The parks department could search for a company or group of people who would be willing to sponsor the dog park's construction. That way, a service can be offered to the community with minimal cost to the taxpayer.

Of course, the success of a dog park would heavily depend on the responsibility of dog owners who use the park. Owners would need to be aware of what their dogs are doing and know to not bring aggressive animals to the park. Owners will need to take responsibility for their dogs' mess just as they would during a normal walk through neighborhoods. Dogs are animals, and they follow the lead of their owners. If the humans do not behave responsibly and enforce the rules, the dogs will follow by example. But if everyone follows the rules, a dog park can be a wonderful, safe place for dogs and their humans to play.

A dog park is a great idea for Victoria. Our community is full of animal lovers. It's time to give them a place to take their pets, and let them play together off the leash.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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