The town I live in is currently having a debate with regards to a pilot program that the city managers are considering. Some folks want to have certain hours at the parks designated as off-leash for dogs, others are concerned that this will be total chaos. After reading many of the fear-driven arguments against this program and concern for the safety of kids, I couldn’t resist writing this piece suggesting a solution that is a win-win for everyone:
When In Public, Use A Leash
On any given Spring day, one only needs to look as far as one of our parks or along the sidewalks of our downtown to know one thing: kids and pets share a lot of space. But is this a good thing? Some say not to worry, while others see potential for trouble.
According to the 2010 US Census, there are almost 3000 kids under the age of 9 in Los Gatos. The number of dogs in our town surpasses even that number. Obviously, pets and kids must learn to live in harmony with civic responsibility.
As a pet owner, I enjoy walking my dog through one of our local parks for some good old-fashioned exercise. She always has a great time, but I always keep a cautious eye open with regards to our surroundings because, whether in the park or even downtown, it is not uncommon to see a lot of folks who think leashes are unnecessary when they’re out in public. Time and again, I’ve witnessed the chaos that can result from those who feel leashes are optional: running into traffic, chasing geese, rushing toward a frightened elderly person, unmonitored defecation, biting and scratching.
In an ideal world, my dog and your kid could romp and play around the park in innocent fun. But, this is the real world and accidents do happen and a moment of play can quickly become a traumatic experience.
With that said, I would like to call on the town to make public safety and comfort a priority by designating a section of our parks to a fenced-in, leash-free park for kids.
Kids off-leash within the confines of a safety fence is a win-win for every member of the community. It allows kids the much-needed socialization and exercise and it allows other park goers a sense of calm.
Many people see a kid running free and begin to worry about getting bitten or, even worse, getting a communicable disease. Everyone knows kids are walking germ factories:
1. CDC statistics indicate that the largest proportion of Lyme disease cases occurs in kids aged five to 14 years, and more than 50 percent of Lyme disease cases involve kids under age 12. Doctors claim Lyme disease cannot be spread from person to person or from person to animal, but that is not a risk I am willing to take with my own or my dog’s health.
2. Roundworms, like hookworms and whipworms, are spread by fecal contamination of soil. Much of this contamination is caused and spread by kids who defecate outdoors. It’s up to adults to keep an eye on kids, but let’s face it, not everyone is a responsible kid owner.
3. Kids who are unleashed and unvaccinated are a double whammy. These kids are most often carriers and transmitters of Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Kids who put the entire nozzle into their mouth can turn public drinking fountains into a cesspool of communicable diseases.
As summer approaches, many residents may decide that a day in the park is in order. Picnickers throw a blanket over a patch of shaded grass, begin to lay their food out along with plates and utensils, maybe open bottle of wine. An elderly couple strolls about… Idyllic, no? Now, imagine the horror of an unleashed kid running up, a saliva-soaked toy in one hand, a sleeve or arm filthy from using it to wipe a runny nose, an indiscernible squeal that can be either joy or threatening. The food is now dangerous to eat and the stress suffered by the elderly just may very well be too shocking to their system.
This beautiful day out is ruined because someone decided not to leash their kid.
In many parks, a bag dispenser is provided and helps owners be more responsible. The number of soiled diapers, soggy pants resulting from a lack of bladder and bowel control, the kids that see the outdoors as a giant toilet, these make me concerned about the safety of our town.
I hope that the Parks and Public Works Department will consider a fenced-in, off-leash kid park and realize the benefits to the town and to the safety of its residents.
Link to actual piece: When In Public, Use A Leash (Some of the comments are funny)