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« Save Niko Campaign | Main | It's a shame the media focused on the wrong things »

August 28, 2007

Comments

Michelled

Complete and utter bullshit. We can't even get another dog park is this God forsaken city how cam we expect them to properly address any other more serious/important items. They've sold us taxpayers down the river with the f*ck!ng TIFF handouts and we can't get a freakin dog park! Nice BS Funkhouser touted about this board not being "elitist" - somehow I don't think "utterly corrupt" is an improvement.

I'm just about done with this city.

MDog

Brent,
Excellent post. This is a mayor who ran on TRANSPARENCY in government and then appointed these yayhoos who are doing exactly the opposite of what he said -- and yes, it is okay to say this WAS a backroom deal. It absolutely was.

I understand the whole "done" with Kansas City thing. Sometimes it feels like it's stuck in the 50s and so Midwestern. Ooohhh, we can't upset anyone. We'll screw over 600 people so we don't upset 6.

I'm outraged. Also, I think their tactics were absolutely illegal.

MDog

Oh, and I forgot to add, they CALLED THE POLICE on us. Yes, they called the police because a large group of totaly non-threatening citizens were demanding our RIGHT TO SPEAK during the PUBLIC COMMENT portion of this government meeting. Unbelievable. (Of course, the police didn't so much as ask us to leave since the TV cameras were still rolling when they arrived.)

Tony

I really don't want to post this but I need help.

I have two pit bulls that I need to find a temporary home for since I can't pay the rent for them at my ex's house. She is on active duty right now and I can't keep them at my place because no one wants to deal with their in your face lap dog jumps. I didn't think that this would all be so hard but I need help. I need shelter for these two until my ex comes back in 7 months. Please help me out here we're all desperate.

-Tony

MDog

Do you believe in urban dog parks and/or free speech? Please let the mayor and your city council members know what you think of this dirty, back-room deal and the park board's refusal to allow the public to speak at the PUBLIC hearing. The mayor's office is being flooded with e-mails right now. We need to strike while the iron is hot. KC residents: this now affects ALL of you! Please let your mayor and city council members know how you feel!

The mayor's email is: mayor@kcmo.org

Find your council members' contact info here:
http://www.kcmo.org/council.nsf/council/home

Thank you!

Eric

First of all, I'm a big supporter of dog parks and a regular at Penn Valley. BUT, the behavior I saw on TV last night gives every dog lover a bad. After all of the profanity and threats, how receptive do you think the parks board will be the next time a community group asks for a dog park??

I'm actually glad the board denied the request. The city can't afford to take care the dog we already have, so it doesn't make any sense to build more until we have the resources to support all of them.

We do need a city-wide plan instead of doing this on a case-by-case basis. If Brookside got its dog park I doubt they would have kept up the pressure to build more. Usually as soon as Brookside gets what it wants everyone forgets about the rest of the city. For example, the Trolley Track Trail and the rezoning to keep out big box stores.

Let's all think about the issue of dog parks from a city-wide perspective, not just the narrow interests of a single neighborhood.

Brent

Eric, good points (mostly).

It's really unfortunate that the TV coverage made it look like the WOOF folks (and other dog park supporters that aren't part of WOOF) were angry that they didn't get their dog park. They were mostly angry at the process, being denied a public hearing (which they were promised) and having a back-room deal close them out. Unfortunately, the news didn't make any of that clear -- which is really too bad.

I'll also note that the WOOF group was raising money and donations/sponsorships to provide all the costs for building and maintaining the parks themselves.

As far as a city-wide plan goes, I couldn't agree more. KCMO needs to be open to building a series of dog parks. I'd love to see about 4 "regional" dog parks -- one in a large park in the Northland, one in a large park down South, one in the Northwest (unused) corner of Swope and the current Penn Valley location. Then, supplement these with a few smaller/neighborhood dog parks.

I think the Sunnyside thing was destined to fail because it was too large of a dog park in too small of a park -- but they needed to build it too big because an overall city-wide shortage of parks and high demand. I think using Sunnyside park as part of a city-wide network of parks would have been a better approach.

All of that said, the Parks Board's methods yesterday were completely out of line, and I completely understand why people were so upset. It was VERY poorly handled by the Parks Board. And it's a shame that they took this route of pissing off a lot of people that were going to invest private funds into fixing up public property....

Brent

One other note though, with a city that is so resistent to any type of change, I can definitely see why going after a small change (one dog park) instead of a big change (and city-wide system) would be a prefered option...as we've just witnessed, this city doesn't, as a whole, accept big change well.

Eric

I guess I just have a hard time sympathizing with something driving 3-4 miles from Brookside to Penn Valley when many of the same park's regular users are driving 15-20 miles from as far away as Liberty or Grandview.

You would have better luck with the parks department if there was a city-wide advocacy organization instead of small groups in each neighborhood. Are the WOOF people talking to dog park advocates in the Northland, Downtown, or Southland? It doesn't seem like it...

Brent

Agreed to some extent. I agree that we should be working on a city wide dog park effort -- I have a feeling that you'll see that all come together very shortly. Like I said, the Sunnyside project was always a very narrow view.

But that said, if citizens are ponying up 100% of the dollars to build the parks, I guess I can't fault them for having a neighborhood view of it...

That said, I really hope that a city-wide movement for more dog parks picks up -- as I think it will improve a lot of city-living elements.

I just wish everyone would have handled the whole situation better yesterday.

MDog

I think most of the behavior was fine - except for two (out of 40-plus who were there) people I heard use profanity. It is okay to act up (within reason) when so-called public servants are corrupting the public process and pushing through secret back-room deals. Of course, there will always be a few on the fringe of any group - and you can't control how people choose to behave - but I think the non-profane outcry was a perfectly reasonable response to being arrogantly denied a voice during a supposed "public comment" section of a public meeting.

I agree that a city-wide policy would be good and that large regional dog parks should be combined with smaller neighborhood dog parks and/or off-leash hours. Even if WOOF didn't get their Sunnyside dog park, I'm sure they could have accepted a no if the process were followed properly and they had a chance to have a voice.

Also, don't forget that people came to these meetings with higher expectations because Mayor Funkhouser - who appointed Ms. Stackhaus (who is close friends with the main dog park opponent and gloated "I'm loving every minute of this" as she walked past Deb Hipp at the "public" meeting) and the other park board members - promised us a transparent government.

wendy

Tony, have you tried contacting Missouri Pit Bull Rescue to see if they could help out?
http://west.petfinder.com/shelters/MO122.html
http://www.pbrc.net/


Michelled

ITS WALDO NOT BROOKESIDE! And the people in Liberty can build their own damn dog park - I don't care how far they drive to use amenities in my city. Penn Valley is also privately funded in part at least...Dog parks require fence - they're not that expensive. Not when you consider the city gave 3 billion in TIF...and we squable over $30k in fence?

In the meantime Eric, start your citywide dog park group you keep talking about - its a great idea. And let's work on building some dog parks in the big parks and see what happens - how many want to bet we'll see the same kind of resistence?

Annette LePique

I'm sorry, why should anyone be expected to have to drive to a park to enjoy basic neighborhood activities like walking? How are people without cars, or the disabled supposed to get to the one and only dog park in this city? Not every dog owner is a 30 something yuppie, buppie or guppie with an income over $50,000 and a new car?
There are tennis courts in almost every city park, and how many of our residents play tennis, and how many play on public courts?
The opponents must either really hate dogs or progress, or both. I am over 55, low income and don't want to go to Penn Valley Park, I don't think it is safe. Is that a crime on my part?

MDog

The other thing is that neighborhood dog parks foster a sense of community that might be their biggest asset. Penn Valley is a ngihborhood dog park for some - I have friends who live nearby and go daily or almost daily. They have formed wonderful friendships with other regulars, they peform community service by planting trees there and maintaining the park, etc. and they run into each other in gathering places other than the dog park.

I do not live near it (15-minute drive) and so I go maybe once or twice a month. While I and my dog get to enjoy the dog park amenity, and it's something fun to do, I really envy my friends who live nearby, go daily and are part of that sense of community. It's a totally different thing, and one of the things that makes urban living so great.

While I do not live in Waldo, I am truly sad for my friend in Waldo who will be prevented from creating that same sense of community around a common interest, because of the pettiness and small-mindedness of a few people who happened to have a connection with a corrupt park board commissioner.

Brent

Annette,

I agree that there are all kinds of amenities we all pay for that not everyone uses. I don't have kids, or play tennis, but nearly every park in the city has playground equipment and tennis courts.

The whole point of parks is to provide a little something for everyone so we can all enjoy them for what we enjoy doing.

It's pretty obvious that dog owners are under-represented at the parks.

What's funny about your comment about Penn Valley Park is that I usually consider the area around the dog park to be one of the safer places in the city...there are always a lot of people around, a lot of activity, a lot of witnesses and people that'd have your back if something fishy was going on....it's the exact opposite feeling I get from being in the majority of the city's parks where if something strange were to happen there wouldn't be much for witnesses.

Laura

Eric, please do a little research. The whole point of a neighborhood dog park is that is IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. We should not have to drive, (thus increasing pollution and putting ourselves and our dogs at risk for an vehicle crash,) when we have a barely used park within walking distance of hundreds of residents. We are not expecting the city to fund it, as we have already raised over $ 6,000 on our own, and we have an architect working pro bono to design the park. We simply want them to give us less than 1/5 of a 20+ acre park that is now being used by the homeless, prostitutes, and drug dealers/junkies, for a dog park. What is wrong with trying to improve our own neighborhood? We have researched other locations, but the hundreds of Waldo residents who signed our petition want the park in their neighborhood or a nearby neighborhood. The whole point is that urbanites should not have to drive so far to excercise and socialize their dogs. Why is that so difficult to grasp for the Parks Dept? How do they think cities like NYC and Chicago have so many dog parks? They are certainly not in underpopulated "regional" parks away from "residential areas and neighborhoods!"

Laura

PS Eric: You shouldn't believe everything you see on the news! Unless you were there, please do not make blanket statements on the behavior of the 40+ WOOF members who were at the meeting and who were blindsided by this corrupt Parks board. You were not there and obviously don't have enough information.

Caveat

They always want dog parks as far from houses, schools, etc as possible.

This is due to a warped perception of what a dog park is, who uses it and what goes on.

People think they will be surrounded by feces, that the dogs will be constantly fighting, that there will be a lot of noise, etc.

We did the following to get our first dog park in Hamilton, Ontario:

Went around and filmed other dog parks in action including interviews with regular users. Filmed groups of dogs running loose in undesignated areas including interviews. Showed it to the Councillors.

Contacted authorities in other cities/towns with successful off-lead programs, got their research materials, statistics and input/support. These guys all speak the same language so if you can get support from another municipality, it works well.

Formed a city-wide club (as noted above) as recommended by the manager of Parks. We got about 150 members in a few weeks. This made us look bigger than we were, that great old trick from nature.

Offered to run it as a 'pilot' for one year, this actually extended to two years. During this time we maintained the park (3 of us doing 6 acres, don't ask about why there were only 3 of us, that's the way it goes in organizations) which included spreading mulch in the upper field, fencing off some swampy areas where a creek ran through the wooded area, emptying ALL the garbage cans twice a week (I still hate those paper takeout coffee cups...), cleaned up the grounds when necessary, enforced the Code of Conduct, resolved conflicts, etc, etc.

Their major concern isn't that they don't like dogs or dog owners. It's liability. Cities worry about liability day and night. In fact, when the head of Parks came to my house for a meeting he was reading through what would be presented at City Hall and had slipped in that our group, PALZ, would carry liability insurance on the dog park! Uh, no.

It's an open invitation to civil litigation if anything goes wrong - that's why they want them to be in less populated areas - fewer people, fewer twits.

The area must be fenced. Our research showed that the only successful parks were fenced, primarily because they were more relaxing for dog owners and because people who fear dogs feel safe when they know where the dogs will be.

If anything, dog parks benefit the non-dog-owning public more than they benefit dog owners because they know exactly where the dogs will be.

Keep pushing, don't let them win - these politicial hacks often seem to forget who works for whom.

Good luck!

MDog

Caveat,
Thank you for your very helpful post! I am sitting here strategizing right now, and just added three new items to my to-do list, thanks to your input.

In our case, the not-in-neighborhood-parks thing was pushed through as a way to kill this one particular proposed neighborhood dog park (without having a public hearing where hundreds would show up in support and dwarf the dozen active opponents). It happened because one park board commissioner who is known for being unfair, sneaky and a huge bully happens to be old friends with the main park opponent.

So, we do have more of a challenge here than if we were dealing with a reasonable board that just has normal city fears. But there is strength in numbers, and if there's one thing dog owners have, it's numbers.

Thanks again!

Marjorie

Here's my take on off-leash dog parks, for what it's worth.

Some of you "know" me. I trained dogs for thirty years, spent 10 years rehabilitating aggressive dogs, dedicated 8 years to conducting research into dog biting incidents, and have attended an off-leash dog park of some kind nearly every day for the past 10 years or more.

In all my years, I've only been to 2.5 "fenced" off-leash areas. One is in Mississauga, Ontario. The other is in Manhattan. The "half" is an off-leash area in Toronto that was recently fenced along the sides of the trails, to prevent dogs from disturbing the foliage and wildlife. (Naturally, my well-behaved, but very large, dog isn't permitted to chase anything, anyway. Whereas poorly-supervised/trained small dogs can easily get behind the fence, and continue to disrupt the protected area.)

There are pros and cons to fences, when it comes to off-leash areas.

On the plus side, people with not-so-well-trained pets may feel "safer", knowing their dogs can't run off (as usual). The public also tends to feel better about a fenced-off leash-free area, if it's located in a mixed use area of the park. They feel reassured they won't have to interact with dogs if they don't choose to do so.

(Most of the off-leash parks I regularly attend are naturally segregated from the rest of the park, such as being on the other side of a hill or bordered by a stream.)

The downsides of fencing an off-leash area tend to be the cost, the unsightliness of the fence (which opponents may - rightly - view as a blight on the larger park), and then there's the simple fact that fences tend to overly-restrict the off-leash area, for reasons of both cost and practicality. For the most part, fenced off-leash areas tend to be significantly smaller than unfenced off-leash areas.

Of course, if you don't have any off-leash areas, or just one, you'll take what you can get...naturally.

Personally, I have little use for off-leash areas that are one, big, open field. They're soul-crushingly boring, and the dogs quickly tire of them. They're better than nothing, but... Plus you're basically stuck there, with forced, silly conversations with whatever mental defective might be there that day. Some of the dumbest things I've ever heard in my whole life were uttered by dog owners at dog parks.

I much prefer off-leash areas with both a large field of some kind (for super-fast sprinting play), and wooded trails where dogs and owners can meet up, but then continue on, on their own, once the dogs are finished playing, or if they're not interested in playing with each other at all.

As I said, I don't go to fenced dog parks because the few I've been to have been a misery. The Mississauga one is relatively large, but it's just a big, open field. Dog owners tend to cluster together and chat, rather than supervising their dogs...who are generally bored to tears anyway. The Manhattan one was tiny, with atrocious footing that hurt my dog's feet. The one with the fencing on the sides of the wooded trails is rather innocuous to me, and I have been to that one several times. ...Always a joy.

In all the years I've trained dogs and taught responsible dog ownership, my single biggest mission might have been to teach the true meaning of "socialization". People who don't regularly take their dogs to interact, off-leash, with strange people and animals are virtually ensuring their dogs will never learn to control their own behaviour in those situations.

And, with the exceptions of protection-trained dogs, since dogs only bite when they feel threatened, it's no wonder I've never found a responsibly-owned dog involved in an unprovoked attack. When dogs are properly socialized, they don't fear people or other dogs, simply because they don't know them. If they don't feel threatened, they don't behave aggressively. It's not rocket science. Properly-socialized dogs have learned how to interact "appropriately" with strangers. The emphasis is on the word "appropriately".

When I've pushed for more off-leash areas in the past, the precise argument I've used is the sheer distance to some of these places. The closest I've ever lived to a designated leash-free area was at least a 40 minute drive roundtrip. That's when traffic is light! Forget about me. I made the time. But that meant most of my dog-owning neighbours likely couldn't provide adequate off-leash socialization experiences and exercise for their dogs. Most people don't have that kind of time to devote to driving to and from off-leash dog parks. Everyone suffers, as a result.

Some of them, of course, illegally run their dogs off-leash, out of desperation.

When governments interfere with the normal socialization process for dogs (as they've been doing since '60's or '70's, with the advent of mandatory leash laws and by making legal off-leash spaces so few and far between), they are actively creating more poorly-socialized dogs. Poorly-socialized dogs are infinitely more likely to bite unprovoked, one day.

One dog trainer pointed out that we don't expect this of any other animal. No one would ever suggest keeping a horse or chicken or pig or cat tied up, either to a fixed object or to the end of a leash, all the time. Yet there are those who suggest dogs should always be tied, in some way. Yet it's obvious dogs can't move and interact naturally when they're limited by the length of a leash.

Of course I've written extensively about these, and other, issues in the past, such as "socialization" and leash/tether/fence/cage-induced "frustration aggression" and how the popularity of municipal leash laws has led to a staggering increase in dog bites.

And, just to sum it all up, taking dogs to off-leash areas for socialization has been the cornerstone of my highly-successful rehabilitation efforts. When a dog comes to me with aggression issues, especially towards other dogs, they tend to remain that way UNTIL I introduce them to the concept of off-leash social interaction.

Even when dogs are notoriously aggressive, I haven't found a better or faster way to rehabilitate them than doing what their owners should have done from day one: socialization!

Off-leash dog parks are in the best interests of everyone: dogs, dog owners, and society in general.

Dogs, of course, both need and enjoy the exercise and social interaction they just can't get on a leash. If their owners teach them how to behave appropriately, their owners are much less likely to abandon them for behavioural reasons. ...Good for dogs.

Good dog owners realize that well-socialized, properly-exercised dogs tend to be good canine neighbours. When augmented with off-leash obedience training, dogs are so well-mannered and easy to deal with, owners are significantly less-likely to abandon them for behavioural reasons. It is also much less stressful and more rewarding to live with a well-behaved dog. ...Good for dog owners.

Society benefits when dogs are adequately exercised and socialized because they're not unjustifiably aggressive. The dog you want living next door is one that is regularly taken for socialization experiences, gets lots of exercise, and can be controlled without the "need" for physical restraints or barriers. Off-leash exercise tends to facilitate all those things. Fewer aggressive dogs means fewer unprovoked dog bites. ...Good for society.

It's win, win, win!

Some cities have made local parks "leash-free" during certain hours of the day (usually 6-9AM and then again from 9PM to midnight). It works for some regions.

I bristle whenever I hear people talk about dog parks as a luxury. They're as vital to a dog's well-being as food, water, shelter, and love. Properly socializing and exercising one's dog is simply the right thing to do, no matter what some ignorant politician or citizen believes.

Brent

I'm going to encourage to people to read Marjorie's post (I know I sometimes skip the long comments, but hers is definitely worth the read).

Here's a link to an article about Socialization from Marjorie's website:

http://www.goodpooch.com/MyGoodPooch/socialization.htm

It's not my favorite of her articles on socialization, but since my favorite is gone, this one will do.

Good stuff...and 100% dead on. The same people that will complain about the dog parks are the same people that later on will complain about someone's unsocialized dog...

Caveat

MDog,

Cliff's notes, how it played out. Took 6 years to get the park, but we don't quit, being 'pit bulls' and all..LOL

1. 650 names on petitions to use a small unused back corner of a 72-acre park in our high density area, already fenced on two sides. Park itself used by 40 - 60 people daily to run their dogs, in violation of the bylaw. No incidents.

2. Bugging, bugging and more bugging through our Aldermen. Eventually, they can't take it and will give you time, they think to shut you up ha ha ha.

3. City advertises for a Leash-Free Task Force, I apply, urge others to apply they can't be bothered. I'm accepted because they don't know me LOL.

4. On this Task Force are a vet, spca folk, school supers, a member from the park neighbourhood group which is basically a bunch of old fogies with nothing to do all day but look out their windows which back on to the park and rat out dog owners. City officials, a lawyer, a few others.

5. We meet for nearly two years, weekly. Needless to say, people drop off but its a wothwhile exercise in the end. We end up with a different, drive-to location right beside the SPCA - it's a great spot for many reasons but it doesn't help people who don't drive because transit in Hamilton, surprisingly, won't let dogs on the bus.

6. They are worried about the cost of fencing, maintenance, etc. We along with the SPCA CEO suggest changing the bylaw to add one dollar per tag to licences to fund the fencing and any future enhancements, new parks, etc. Passed at a Council meeting. We volunteer to maintain the park.

7. They wanted to use that farm fencing. Uh, no it has to be chain link, at least 4 feet high. Cost of fence for 6 acres: ~ $30K. Paid off in just under two years through tag sales (dog pop about 100,000 in Hamilton, licensing at about 15% which is high for Ontario).

blah blah you know the rest.

Get the city to set up a Task Force made up of intelligent stakeholders. Get on the Task Force.

Go from there. Be prepared to compromise, don't dig in your heels about a specific location - something better may crop up.

If you will be at the conference, I can meet you if you like. I arrive Friday around 5:30 pm, leave Sunday at 6:00 pm.

Brent has my email addy if you want to set something up.

Oh, and you guys are all from Missouri, right?

You have to SHOW them...

MDog

Caveat,
Thank you for all of this great information. I appreciate it. The task force idea is excellent, and I appreciate the comments about not digging in our heels on one location.

I would love to meet with you. I'll get in touch through Brent.

Marjorie

Brent,

I suspect this is the one you're referring to:
http://www.goodpooch.com/MediaBriefs/leashlawscausebites.htm

If it's another, let me know and I'll consider putting it back up.

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