Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dog owners wear out welcome at Roosevelt School

the following was sent by a Boise Trail DOG member who has been actively involved in promoting responsible dog ownership, and appropriate off leash use:

For decades neighbors of Roosevelt School in Boise’s East End have enjoyed a local spot to play Frisbee or a brief game of fetch with their dogs. During much of this time, light use and vigilance minimized conflicts. In the past year however, a large increase in the number of dogs with careless owners and one too many students stepping in poop resulted in a formal dog ban.

Last fall students and teachers tried some creative strategies to encourage responsible use. They put handmade signs up around the school asking dog owners to pick up after their pets, and even hung bag dispensers made out of recycled soda bottles on the fence in several places. Apparently, too many owners ignored this ‘second chance’ at redemption. A family living nearby continued to allow their dog to run loose without any supervision, and another owner simply refused to pick up after her dog when confronted by parents and neighbors. No doubt other individuals added to the problem.

Poop incidents were sometimes a daily occurrence, with students, teachers, parents and building custodians having their days ruined as a result of irresponsible dog owners. Over the past year, a group of around a dozen or more owners had begun gathering at the schoolyard every night to socialize with other neighbors and let their dogs play, treating the location as a de facto off-leash park. Some neighbors began to avoid the overcrowded yard, and many wondered how long it would take for some sort of official action.

Dogs with responsible owners are tolerated in many urban areas despite local ordinances against off-leash activity in neighborhoods, school grounds, and parks. The key seems to be exercising restraint (along with pets) and a zero tolerance for clueless behavior. Principals and teachers have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of students. They must also respond to parent complaints and concerns. Schoolyards are not dog parks; they never have been and never will be.

The irony here is that the Military Reserve OLA and controlled off-leash trails are a few blocks away. Clearly, closing the school playground will not have any impact on poop around the school grounds. That problem will no doubt worsen over time. Without video surveillance or frequent police patrols, clueless owners will still allow their dogs to deposit stinky land mines in the path of students. This is a sad lesson to dog owners: bad behavior of even a handful of dog owners tarnishes the image of all of us.

Don’t take your local neighborhood resources for granted; proactive self-policing and cooperative strategies are key to maintaining good neighborhood relationships. It’s important to do the right thing, especially when you think no one is looking. Don’t wait until it’s too late for your neighborhood.

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