Location, location, location. What was MV council thinking in dog park site?

We are all familiar with the Realtor expression of “location, location, location.” I refer to that saying to indicate how off base our council majority was at their Oct 5th meeting in their site selection for our  proposed dog park.
Folks. We recently completed spending over $15 million on the expansion of the Norman P. Murray Community and Senior Center that, in addition to multiple programs for our seniors, some using walkers, includes two brand new soccer fields for our children. This overall, busy, complex is adjacent to the Newhart School which itself has a huge enrollment along with vehicular traffic. And we want to “let the dogs out.”

Rather than interjecting my own opinion, as an owner of two dogs, let me share some comments from those more involved with our four legged friends than myself.
Let’s begin with former Mayor Sharon Cody, leader of the volunteer group DAWG, who has spent hundreds of hours with animals at our shelter.

  “I have just had an interview with the Manager of the Laguna Beach Shelter. Nearly 90% of owners come from all over the county, not just the host city. (particularly on Sat. and Sun). They become hysterical when their dogs get injured and run into the Laguna Beach shelter screaming for animal control to come quick. Also the owners themselves have punched each other out creating a need to put in a phone booth so that patrons/victims can dial 911.”
She goes on to say: “The other lovely thing that I have picked up from all 3 local dog park city owners is that absolutely NO ONE leashes up their dog before they enter the park.”
Former Mayor Cody
closes saying “I did wonder if taxpayers want to have their tax dollars used to recreate 90% of dogs and owners that do not even live in our city. Lots to think about! Sharon.”

Sharon also wrote that “Leash free dog parks have sprung up in many cities with varying degrees of success. The idea in each of these parks is that the owner assumes ALL the risks associated with their dog when participating in a leash free park. None of these parks are supervised by animal control in any of these cities because this is the only way to avoid liability. Signs are posted that people and their pets are participating  at their own risk . This would be similar in nature to a swimming pool with no lifeguard on duty.
While the goal would be for owned dogs to play together and enjoy each other’s company, the reality, there will be days when dogs do not get along. It helps if you consider that a leash free park is in an area or zone where leash laws are not going to be enforced. Signs can be posted that dogs should be well socialized and dogs should be vaccinated but the real truth of the matter is rules are difficult to enforce AND there absolutely IS an element of risk.”
She adds: “Animal control cannot control  what happens in a leash free park. Insurance would jump sky high if risk management felt the city had to assume liability for dog fights, dog injuries and people injuries in a park where dogs are not required to be leashed.”

In their letter to the city of Mission Viejo the South Orange County Emergency Veterinary Group Inc. wrote: “It is common knowledge  that the majority of dog users do not leash up their dogs prior to entering the dog park. This would result in unleashed dogs wandering around the parking lot, adding increased liability to the city  of Mission Viejo…” Their letter closes stating “We frequently treat animals injured at dog parks as well as initiate first aid for bite wounds that have been inflicted on owners trying to defend their dogs.”

I recall our city librarian boasting of our having card carrying users from “every city” in Orange County and beyond. These “out of towners” take out our books and videos, use our computers, and jam our parking lot while residents are often forced to drive to the back corner looking for a parking place.

While I understand the desire of some residents to have a dog park in Mission Viejo I seriously anticipate that an award winning dog park in Mission Viejo will have the same appeal as the award winning library. Anyone can show up with their dogs.
Our city council started promoting this CIP,  excluding professional fees for design services, at $768,000 and are proud to reduce the scaled down park at the busy Murray Center to approximately $225,000 (before anticipated change Orders). Forget about concerns from adjacent property owners who will have to deal with the barking, parking and other issues that they raised at Monday’s meeting of our Planning Commission.
As a Tuesday morning quarterback I would opine that the busy Murray Center complex is the worst location one could select for a dog park.


About Larry Gilbert