Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A city park for dogs?

In response to a homework assignment, a college coed at Southern Utah University, Sarah Scott, decided Cedar City needs a dog park. She found some like-minded people in town to start a movement to that end. Unlike the other 14 parks our small city has, the dog park would be a place where dogs would be free to run off-leash. With regard to pets, there would be no other difference between the dog park and most other parks in the city.

Here are some of my concerns:

1 - On their website dog park advocates cite several reasons to support their dog park. Every reason given is already satisfied with current infrastructure and by persons using good judgment with regard to the type of pet they own. Adequate opportunities to exercise dogs already exist such as sidewalks, parks, and each dog owner's own property. My wife has been quite capable of exercising our Labrador-mix from her wheelchair in our own yard and on daily walks in the neighborhood.

2 - With the exception of a few people who need a service dog, responsible dog owners do not have dogs larger than can be entertained and exercised on their own property.

3 - Dog park advocates claim that having a dog park will enable owners of bored and overweight dogs to take better care of their dogs. Such owners are inherently irresponsible. Having a dog park available is unlikely to change the owner's behavior nor benefit his neglected dog in any way.

4 - On their website, dog park advocates have identified proposed park rules. There is no indication as to who will enforce these rules or whether the rules will be added to the city ordinances to enable the city to enforce park rules. If the rules are to be made law (as would seem to be necessary, since advocates want to use city-owned property) there seems to be no plan to pay for the additional cost of city enforcement. I assume, therefore, that park advocates expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab to enforce park rules. A quote from the website "Dog Bite Law": "...failure to enforce its own rules and regulations may result in governmental liability. Dog parks frequently are governed by special rules that are either posted or part of the local municipal code. If an irresponsible dog owner has a habit of breaking those rules, and the local animal control officers do nothing despite being informed, a person who sustains personal injuries or injuries to his or her dog may prevail against the municipality."

5 - Park advocates have claimed that the dog park will be established at no cost to the taxpayer. Then, they contradict themselves by expecting city property to be used for the park site. They expect to use city RAP (Recreation, Arts, Parks) funds, and federal LWCF (Land and Water Conservation Funds) -- all derived from taxpayers. (In previous correspondnece, I have already expressed my concerns to the City Council about using federal money to fund local projects.) None of this is free money from Heaven. It is money extracted from taxpayers! On their website, advocates say, "These funds are already obtained tax funds that are collected in our already existing taxes and are used for Recreation, Arts, and Parks. It is money that will go to other areas if it is not used by us." They somehow seem to believe that taxes that were collected in the past is somehow free money.

6 – Proposed dog park rules would ban un-neutered adult male dogs and female dogs that are in heat. That would seem to discriminate against a substantial portion of the dogs in this city and their tax-paying owners. They even propose banning children under age 8 from interacting with their own dogs in the dog park. If it is so important for dogs to have their own park for exercise and socialization, how do park advocates expect fertile dogs to socialize and exercise? Surely, they don’t expect fertile dogs to exercise by playing with their owners in the back yard and by taking walks with their owners in their own neighborhoods!

7 - The proper role of government is to protect the rights of the people -- not to entertain them or even to do for them what they presumably cannot do for themselves. Most of what all levels government does could be done better and cheaper by private enterprise -- including parks and recreation. We must learn to stop expecting government to fix all our personal problems, real and imagined, to and satisfy all our desires -- including providing a place for our pets to play. We must learn to take care of ourselves and our pets at our own expense.

8 - It's bad enough that I am forced to pay city RDA (Downtown Redevelopment Agency) taxes that are used to maintain and repair property owned by private businesses simply because they are located downtown. Now, I'm expected to pay for a place for dogs to catch Frisbees and to socialize! I am one taxpayer who is tired of paying somebody else's bills through my taxes. Now, they expect me to pay for the entertainment of their pets!

9 - I'm told that his city has 14 parks and recreation properties and has spent over 22 million dollars on parks and recreation over the past 5 years. The city is spending money on parks and swimming pools as if the money is falling from the sky. The dog park advocates seem to have the same attitude.

10 - One park advocate argues that, although she has no children, she pays taxes to educate her neighbors' children. Therefore, she thinks it is appropriate to use funds extracted from taxpayers to provide a park for dogs. While the appropriateness and wisdom of a government school system is another topic upon which I could rant, the two situations are hardly similar. Having a well educated citizenry benefits society as a whole by preparing youth for the occupations and leaderships roles they will take as adults. Properly educated (as opposed to indoctrinated) youth become wise voters, elected officials and other community leaders. A dog park, on the other hand, is just a dog park -- a park that will benefit a small minority of dog owners. A dog park does nothing for the general welfare of the community as does education.

11 - The entire world is in a severe debt crisis. It will not get better until political leaders at all levels -- even Cedar City -- learn to exercise restraint and good judgment in spending. Without extreme and immediate restraint, the central government has (and will have) so encumbered the nation with so much unsustainable current and future debt that taxes must necessarily rise to the point where there will soon be nothing left for local governments to tax in order to support and maintain existing local projects such as our aquatics center, let alone a new dog park. To prepare for this, the City Council must immediately begin to exercise restraint and wisdom in its spending habits.

12 - I consistently have, and will continue to, vote against any political office holder who votes for projects or activities that are unaffordable or unnecessary. I support only candidates who show good judgment. I take time to urge everyone I know to do likewise.

We don't need to use city and taxpayer resources to satisfy a person's homework assignment. I urge the Cedar City Council to reject the movement to establish a dog park or anything like it on city-owned property using any form of public funds.

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