Mar 192012
 

Here’s another great page from Planet Dog on how to get a dog park built in your community.  We’re well on our way, but this list of 13 steps is a good reminder of just how much work it actually takes to get a dog park built.

The dog lovers at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in San Mateo, California, have developed the following strategies for successfully getting a dog park created:

1.  Start with a core group of committed dog park activists
Talk with a half-dozen other dog lovers who are concerned about the lack of off-leash spaces.  These may be people you already know – or you can put a notice in the local paper to find more dog-friendly folks.
2.  Hold a public meeting
Once the core group is in agreement, a larger community meeting will help you get the word our to supporters and solicit input and suggestions.  Encourage people to write letters in support of a dog park to public officials and the media and to make presentations to community groups whose backing would be valuable.
3.  Educate your fellow dog owners on the need to be responsible
People who neglect to pick up after their dog or who allow and aggressive or unsocialized animal to run loose can do a lot of damage to your cause and your ultimate chances of success.   Your mission should be twofold: establishing a off leash dog exercise area and promoting responsible canine care.
4.  Write a clear mission statement
Write a mission statement that details the need and purpose of the park, stressing the benefits to dog owners, their canine companions, and the greater community.  A suggested statement: To establish a fenced-in, off-leash dog park where well-behaved canine citizens can exercise in a clean, safe environment without endangering or annoying people, property, or wildlife.  To develop a beautiful, well maintained space open to all dog lovers and friends who are willing to uphold the park’s rules and restrictions.  To view this park as a community project designed to satisfy the needs of dog owners and non-dog owners alike.
5.  Demonstrate Need
Gather statistics on the dogs and their people n your community.  How many dogs would use a dog park?  What are the demographics of the people in our city?  Who currently uses city parks – and who doesn’t?  Downplay the “dog factor” and emphasize people issues.  Remember, dogs don’t play taxes or vote.
6.  Demonstrate Support
Activists found that a simply worded request circulated on a petition, helped convince city officials that there was indeed both a need and widespread public support for a responsibly run dog park.  Place petition gatherers at supermarkets, pet supply stores, and other high-traffic areas.  Enlist the support of local veterinarians, groomers, dog walkers and others who have a real Internet in having a community filled with healthy, well-socialized dogs.  Involve them in gathering petitions, writing letters to the editor of local papers, and generally spreading the word.
7.   Create a Budget
Determine how much it will cost to construct and maintain the park – include costs for grass, fences, garbage removal, lawn maintenance, drinking water, field drainage, lighting, benches, and a pooper scooper area.  Some cities are willing and able to finance a dog park; others would rather share the cost with a group committed to maintaining the park and ensuring the park’s rules.
8.  Solicit the input and seek the approval of significant organizations in your community.
Talk with the proposed park’s neighbors before talking to city hall.  As soon as someone puts up a serious red flag, pay attention to it; don’t ignore it or fight it, and try to come up with a solution.  If it really is impossible to resolve at least you’ll know what you’re up against.   
9.   Be prepared to address a range of concerns…
…including the risk of dog fights, dog bites, increased noise level, parking and traffic problems, and liability and maintenance issues,  Explain why some of these are non-issues and have a plan to address the ones – such as traffic and noise – that are legitimate
10.  Ask your local SPCA for help and a letter of support.
11.  Get to know local officials
Your city council members and the director of your Department of Parks and Recreations.  Attend meetings, join them at fundraisers.  Find our what they need from your to move the dog park forward.
12.  Request a hearing with the city government
When you’re ready, request a hearing to discuss your proposal.  Have two or three carefully selected, knowledgeable, and articulate members of your group present your plan, clearly expressing its many benefits to the community and calmly addressing any concerns.
13.  Be patient
Dealing with city government is rarely a quick deal.  Though you may find yourself running with Fido in the dog park of your dreams within a year, it could just as easily take several years to create.

As always, we’ll keep you updated on the latest for the Fred Anderson Dog Park!

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