29 June 2011

Raising a Puppy - Ticket for Dog at Large

Neighbors Complain Because Dogs Having Too Much Fun

    Gem now has a criminal record — Today we received his first ticket for "dog at large." We were playing in our usual location when an animal control officer arrived. Lucky for our play group, only three of us were on-site at the time.

We were as pleasant as we could be with the officer, who was clearly "just doing her job" and treated us with respect and a sense of humor. There was no point in arguing — what we were doing was wrong — that is, if you go by the letter of the law.

In my opinion, allowing dogs to play in a fenced-in field that no one is using at 7:30 in the morning shouldn't be illegal. We dog "guardians" (Boulder uses this label, rather than "owner") ensure the field is left in pristine condition; we keep it cleaner than do the young little league players and their families. A single-use field paid for and maintained by the city (but note the several sponsor banners that help pay for the various leagues to play) is rather a waste of resources.

But, I get it. If lots of dogs came, if it were truly allowed to be a dog park, it would start looking ragged, as do most of the dog parks in the area.

What bothers me is that the animal control officer advised us that "we have been getting a lot of complaints..." and "one person's dog, which was on a leash, was chomped on by a dog off-leash in this field." I'd like to know who was doing the complaining and where in relation to the field they live. This isn't so I can be vindictive or retaliate in some way. I just would like to be able to wrap my head around exactly what was the problem. If we were making too much noise, that's something I would understand. The field seems far enough away from residences that this shouldn't be a problem, but I remember working night shift and trying to get to sleep in the early morning. It's difficult.

I've never seen dogs get in a fight in the field and never heard about a dog getting bitten. And I've never seen a dog ON leash in the field, so I'm not sure how the leashed dog could have been attacked by some unnamed vicious dog during our morning play sessions. And really, that doesn't matter. Clearly, someone was upset by something that happened, but didn't take the time to talk to people about it — or, fabricated the story to justify making the complaint.

I wonder if the complaint was made just based on the fact that we were violating an ordinance, regardless of the circumstances. Some people get so caught up in rules that they forget common courtesy. I know it can create anxiety and feel risky to talk to people about their dogs, but why not give it a try rather than "calling the cops" as the first course of action?

I'd love to find some stats to back this up (research project?): It seems to me that folks who complain about dogs have the highest incidence of requested anonymity. People like to judge and complain but not confront and explain. Especially in Boulder.

Gem is about to turn 4 months old and get the last of his puppy shots. Once he gets those, he'll be free to go to the real dog parks around the city. I'll miss the group of dogs we've made friends with, but I'm sure we'll find new friends. It's kind of ironic though, that in a city like Boulder that encourages alternative transportation and local parks, we'll have to drive at least 4 miles round trip just to go where it's legal to have a dog off-leash.

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