Think about the five parks closest to your home. How many allow dogs to run off leash? Probably none. How many allow kids? Probably all of them.
Last week the city of Hamilton, New Zealand defended the rights of their dogs to have a safe area to run off leash despite a local school wishing to use the land for a cross country race. The school had conducted races on the dog park grounds on two previous occasions with 350-360 children participating in each event. The dog park was not closed during these events and apparently little or no notice was given as dog owners were surprised to find the organizers setting up a race in the designated dog run area. The city has since denied the school permission to hold future races on the dog park property citing the obvious safety risk of allowing hundreds of elementary-age children to run among unleashed dogs.
As a former cross country runner, I certainly support giving kids the opportunity to run in a natural setting. However, every member of our society deserves its place and dogs are one of those members. Most parks are built with children in mind, but rare is the park that allows dogs to run off leash despite the increasing demand for dog parks. In fact, a Chicago suburb recently nixed plans for two dog parks in its community. I’m pleased to see that the city of Hamilton recognizes the value of dogs to its residents, even if it means inconveniencing a couple of cross country races.
Not only is the city making the legally correct decision of enforcing the policies of its own parks, Hamilton is also making the morally correct decision by demonstrating to these children that dogs are worthy of being defended and that the residents of their city respect the rights of dog owners to provide a healthy life for their dog. Consider the alternative had the race been run - a child might have been bitten by a dog over-stimulated by the commotion and some of the kids could have developed an undeserved fear of dogs. The kids will still have their race but not at the dog park, which is best for everyone in the long run.
Source: Waikato Times
Photo: Amanda Schrauben