Monday, October 10, 2011

Dog-park dilemma for pooches and owners

TWO Saturdays ago, Streets ran a story on complaints by dog owners in the Klang Valley about the lack of a dog park for them to take their pets to for exercise.

They had proposed that local authorities set up dog parks. A dog lover who had read the article asked me what the chances were of dog parks seeing light of day.

I told the reader it would be good if local authorities bought into the idea, especially when society is trying to be kinder to animals, not just to dogs.

Keeping man's best friend all cooped up, even in a castle, let alone in a 930 sq m condominium, is bad for a dog, regardless of size.

The lack of space to roam makes the animal moody and could turn man's best friend into his worst enemy.

Cut them off from social interaction, you risk your canine wreaking havoc with your shoes, doormats and sofas, and the damage will be something for you to chew about for neglecting their needs.

However, setting up a dog-friendly park is not as easy as building a futsal court. You can't turf a piece of land, fence it, and put up a sign that says "Dog Park". You need to come up with a facility that is not only friendly to man's best friends, but also to man as well.

One big challenge the authorities will face then is that space has to be acquired, and god knows how difficult that is, even for existing public parks.

It would be easier if developers included such parks in their projects, especially those who build high-end gated communes that I get to visit once a year during festive open house events. These developers could even consider dog parks as a unique selling point for their projects.

If you want to set up a dog park, how do you deal with people who love dogs but not the environment?

I am talking about the sneaky fellow who loiters in your neighbourhood on the pretext of walking his dog, but when you take your eyes off them, he allows the animal to defecate in front of your house.

Do you recall the number of times you cursed at the dog when you unknowingly stepped its the poo and brought it into your home?

There are many dog lovers who scoop up their dogs' poo, but still many who do not.

Allow these people into a dog park, and you can imagine the stink they will raise.

Another point to consider is whether the dog park should be open to all dogs or should it be kept exclusively to well-trained and well-socialised pooches?

If it is open to all and the animals are let off-the-leash, dogs which have not been properly trained and socialised may misbehave and cause havoc and ill-will among the owners.

Even if the dogs do not fight with each other, who can guarantee that the friendly mingling of canines will result in better relations among the owners? All it takes is an amorous mutt and a purebred on heat to send the sparks flying.

Then, will the owner of the mutt be held liable for contaminating a pedigree?

Maybe a sign saying "Use Park At Own Risk" should be put up at dog parks.

Car park operators in the city do it all the time as a disclaimer against accidents, vandalism, theft or calamity.

Should someone get hurt from being chased by a dog at the park, the animal cannot be held responsible for the injury, so who is legally responsible -- the dog's owner, the park manager, the local authority, or all of them?

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