Archive for Resources
This position paper contains some excellent reasoning and well-written, persuasive language about the need for off-leash space. Here is a sample:
Why Dogs Need Access to Open Space
The benefits of allowing dogs access to public open space are not always self-evident and warrant closer examination. It is important to understand that these benefits apply not only to dogs, but primarily to their owners and to the community as a whole.
The most obvious and compelling reason to provide access to public open space for off-leash recreation is because of public demand. Dog owners are a substantial group of park users: a conservative estimate is that there are almost 37,000 dog owners in the city of Santa Barbara and approximately 25,000 dogs. (3) For the county, these figures are considerably higher, with an estimated 108,000 dogs and 156,000 dog owners. The sheer number of dog owners, and their prevalence as users of park space, requires that municipal parks departments respond by meeting the expressed need.
The second reason has to do with the link between off-leash recreation and promoting acceptable behavior from dogs. Dogs need to be properly socialized to be good “canine citizens” (Canine Behavior, 1965). They also need appropriate exercise to reduce boredom and pent-up energy at home. Access to a park close to home is the safest and most effective way to ensure that owners socialize their dogs and provide them with on-going experiences in the outside world. This not only benefits the dog and its owner but also neighbors, other park and street users, and authorities responsible for urban animal management, all of whom are affected by unacceptable behavior from unsocialized and underexercised dogs.
The third reason why dogs need access to public open space is for the positive effects on dog owners. Owning a dog encourages people to exercise, promoting physical and mental health. Taking a dog to a community park has also been found to stimulate social interaction with other people (Journal of Nutrition and the Elderly, 1996). The community-building that takes place in off-leash areas results in more cohesive neighborhoods, more local involvement in municipal affairs, and a heightened sense of connectedness and community for all users.
The final reason, of most benefit to urban managers and animal control departments, is that a balanced approach to accommodating dog owners in public open space results in higher levels of compliance with relevant laws by dog owners. If dog owners perceive laws to be unfair it may elicit a defiant rather than a compliant response from dog owners; if, on the other hand, laws are perceived to be fair, people will be more likely to voluntarily comply. Increased compliance reduces the need for enforcement, freeing municipal staff and resources to be used elsewhere.
Do you need to work with your local elected and appointed officials? Do you understand how town meetings and local elections work? Here’s a great resource from the Massachusetts Citizen Information Service on the different ways our towns make and change regulations.