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Council ends bid for pets in parks

Ordinance to allow pets on leashes in certain Dubuque parks, with restrictions, is defeated on a 5-2 vote.

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Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:00 am

Pets-in-the-parks proponents remained in the lobby of the Historic Federal Building 45 minutes after the vote, still presenting their case to Dubuque City Council members. The council ended the yearlong quest Monday on a 5-2 vote.

"I'm just really disappointed," said Kate Lydon, who took the request to the council last year. "I don't understand it. How often do you have a community group come together and work so hard for something? All of a sudden they decided to pull the plug. I did not expect this. It is shocking."

Monday's version of the ordinance would have opened city parks to pets on 6-foot leashes except at Bunker Hill Golf Course, Marshall Park and Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Eagle Point Park, Sutton and Flora pools, Allison-Henderson Park, inside the fence of McAleece Park, veteran's memorials, tennis courts, basketball courts, skate parks or within 10 feet of the border mulch or hard surface surrounding playground equipment. The ordinance called for a one-year trial period at which time it would return to the council for review.

Mayor Roy Buol and council members Kevin Lynch, Lynn Sutton, David Resnick and Joyce Connors voted against. Council members Ric Jones and Karla Braig voted in favor.

Buol began the discussion by reading an email all council members received about a recent incident at Jackson Park. The writer reported that pit bulls ran barking at a 3-year-old girl, who was terrified. The owners called off the dogs, but none of them leashed their pets.

"I'm having a difficult time getting over the lack of enforcement of the existing ordinance in this city," Buol said. "There is virtually no enforcement of the leash laws. If we cannot enforce the existing ordinances on city sidewalks, how can we ever hope to enforce the ordinance in city parks?"

Kevin Lynch, who has voted against the ordinance from the beginning, did not make a statement Monday. Here are comments from other council members and interested parties:

* Joyce Connors -- "I have been inundated by people who are adamant about keeping dogs out of the parks. Emails, phone calls, at church, going out to eat on Friday night."

* David Resnick -- "I wanted us to look at three issues: health, safety and cost. I think there needs to be waste stations at all parks that allow dogs. I'm looking at something like a $3 park pass that will pay for these additional costs. I couldn't support any ordinance that does not address health concerns, safety concerns and costs. I do hope we continue to look at ways to make this happen. Maybe one park at a time."

* Lynn Sutton -- "As the weather has improved, I'm seeing more and more people out with their dogs off leash. When I tell them we have a leash law, they give me awful, awful looks. There are many very responsible pet owners, but it seems we have more and more people that aren't."

* Ric Jones -- "I'm disappointed. I think we could've made it work. I think we're legislating to the lowest common denominator. It's obvious to me we're an outlier. Almost every other city in Iowa allows dogs in their parks. I'm having trouble getting my arms around what the problem is with this."

* Karla Braig -- "For Pete's sakes, not trying it for a year with all of these restrictions? I don't get it. There all of a sudden isn't going to be 10,000 dogs in every park chasing down 3-year-olds. Let's give it a shot."

* Robin MacFarlane -- Owner of That's My Dog! and a grassroots organizer for the initiative -- "I'm in shock. I'm sure there is a way to formulate a plan (to bring the issue back) but at this point we are so deflated and disheartened. I have to seriously evaluate whether I'm up for the continued fight."

* Karen Lyness -- longtime member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission -- "I am disappointed. We worked on this forever, and I really thought we might get it through."

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