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Our View: More controls needed for dog park

Police shouldn’t still be searching for the dog that bit Angela Rojas on Saturday at the DeKalb Park District’s dog park.

Rojas shouldn’t be hoping the dog will be found so that she doesn’t have to go through a series of rabies shots.

For one, the owners of the dog that bit Rojas so badly that she had to be rushed to the hospital and required surgery should never have left the scene.

For another, the DeKalb Park District, which operates the park, should have a system in place for registering users and ensuring that the dogs that are allowed entry have up-to-date vaccination records.

A user fee paid by those who use the park – perhaps through key rentals – is one option for supporting such a system.

Park board members created the dog park area at Katz Park in response to public demand. For years, dog owners had yearned for a local place where their pets could run and play without a leash. The park district made it happen at minimal cost by converting a baseball diamond for the purpose. 

However, less than five months since its opening, one person has been seriously injured and the owners of the dog responsible have not been found. Rojas, who was at the dog park with her dog when she was bitten, was hospitalized for three days, required surgery on her left arm and missed a week of work.

In this case, the dog responsible is thought to have been of a pit bull, but focusing on a particular breed or banning breeds thought to be dangerous is not fair to responsible dog owners.

Dogs of all breeds can bite, and usually behind a problem dog there is a problem owner. Still, in an environment where dogs are allowed to run free and socialize, the possibility exists that dogs and people can be bitten and injured.

Other park districts and cities in the area that operate dog parks have instituted systems for controlling access to dog parks. Some use a system where dog owners must pay to rent a key, and must present paperwork showing that their dog has a current vaccination record. Others add sign-in sheets or issue electronic key fobs to users to track who uses the park and when.

Such a system would make it easier for dog owners to be located in cases like these. In fact, if they know their names and information about their dog are on file, they would be less likely to leave in the first place. It also would provide some peace of mind for all the park users, who could rest assured that like them, the park’s other users had been screened. 

The incident last weekend, so soon after the opening of the dog park area, shows the dangers of the laissez-faire approach. The DeKalb Bark Board should implement more access controls and require dog owners to prove their dogs are current on their shots to prevent this kind of situation from reoccurring.

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