Friday, January 29, 2010

Operation “Leash ‘Em Up”

If you are a frequent visitor to Schuylkill River Park, you may have noticed that there has been an increase in the number of off-leash dogs running outside of the Dog Run in the park, specifically in the grassy bowl area in the center of the park.  These off-leash dogs and their owners have unknowingly created a great deal of friction among other park stakeholders.  As a result, Friends of Schuylkill River Park (FSRP) has received numerous emails and letters with complaints regarding the situation. The fact that one of the best dog runs in the city is nearby but going underutilized by these off-leash dogs has only served to heighten the aggravation.

In response to this public outcry, FSRP is undertaking an educational initiative, code named Operation “Leash ‘Em Up.” This program is designed to increase awareness of the issues and challenges facing us all in this situation and to take steps to educate people on how to be more considerate park users. If you are a dog owner, please take a few moments to read the following comments and consider your own behavior and how it may impact your fellow park users.

Some people are afraid of dogs – Many times we hear people explain that their dog is perfectly friendly when we ask them to leash up their pet. Your dog may well be perfectly friendly. However, an off-leash dog running up to a person that is afraid of dogs can be terrifying, regardless of whether the dog is harmless or not.

Dogs can be unpredictable – Both children & adults have been knocked to the ground, sometimes with injuries, and had food snatched away by rambunctious dogs in the park. Additionally, “friendly” off-leash dogs have run up to other leashed dogs and started fights with them as well as disrupted sunbathers & picnickers. Also keep in mind that the leashed dog that your dog runs up to may not be “friendly” and may react aggressively to your off-leash dog.

Dogs have instinctual chasing & hunting behaviors – When presented with a jogger or a bike rider in the park, many off-leash dogs will often give chase, which is intimidating and dangerous to the safety of the runner/biker. On some occasions, the dogs have run into the surrounding streets and have been hit by cars. Can you imagine how upsetting it would be to accidentally run over someone’s beloved pet because they were off leash?

Off leash dogs at play contribute to destruction of grassy areas – The off-leash dogs playing in the central bowl area of the park in damp conditions are one of the main contributors to the destruction of the grass in that area, creating a mud hole when it rains and an unsightly dirt patch when it is dry.  This area, often utilized for sunbathing, badminton, Frisbee, football games and picnicking during the spring/summer/fall months, is consequently rendered less useful for these activities as a result.

It is against the law to have an unleashed dog outside of the Dog Run – All dogs are required to be on leash at all times in all areas of the City of Philadelphia, unless otherwise indicated. If your dog is off-leash, you are breaking the law and could be ticketed if a Park Ranger witnesses your infraction. Please bring your pet into the “Best of Philly” Schuylkill River Park Dog Run where they can run freely and you won’t be breaking the law.

Friends of Schuylkill River Park will be posting signs in the park reminding dog owners to leash up their pets in consideration of their fellow park users. Members of the SRP Dog Owners Association will also be talking with friends and neighbors making them aware of the issues and asking for their compliance. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions in this regard, please send us an email.

As city dwellers, it is incumbent upon us to share our limited public space with our neighbors in a considerate and thoughtful manner. Please do your part to be considerate of your fellow Philadelphians, both two and four footed, and make sure you “Leash ‘Em Up” in Schuylkill River Park when you are outside of the Dog Run. Thank you in advance for your attention to and compliance with our request.

Peg Connor
President, Friends of Schuylkill River Park & proud owner of Jake, the Jack Russell Terrier, who loves the Schuylkill River Park Small Dog Run

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