Dogs roaming free on Duluth city trails?
OUR VIEW Dogs bark. They also, to put it gently, do their business. And for those reasons, the Duluth City Council two weeks ago tabled a resolution that would have allowed dogs to run leash-free and loose on city trails. An environmental assessm...
Dogs bark. They also, to put it gently, do their business. And for those reasons, the Duluth City Council two weeks ago tabled a resolution that would have allowed dogs to run leash-free and loose on city trails.
An environmental assessment is under way to determine if what dogs leave behind would add to the pollution of local streams, and if their voices would turn up the volume on noise pollution. The Planning Commission will review all of it in July.
But the councilneedn't wait that long or stretch so far to find reasons against letting Fido run free on the trails. It's simply a bad idea.
Or most of it. The measure would allow off-leash trails in three of the city's natural areas. But it would also place a fenced-in dog park at Howtz Street and Rice Lake Road in Kenwood. The dog park, which would complement the Keene Creek Dog Park, the city's only current off-leash area, is an excellent idea -- especially if funded by dog groups that would surely pounce on the opportunity of converting land provided by the city.
"It's better than the backyard. We come here two, three times a week," said Shawn Carlsen of Duluth at the Keene Creek Dog Park near Interstate 35 and Grand Avenue last week. He and his wife Elizabeth had in tow their Jack Russell terrier Chester and a large mixed-breed named... Bueller?
"Like Ferris Bueller," Carlsen explained. "Everyday's his day off."
Told of the off-leash trail plan, Carlsen said it sounded like a good idea, but asked: "Would it be fenced in?"
No, and that's where the fur starts flying. Though off-leash backers have proposed limiting the trails to holders of special permits -- a dog license apparently wouldn't be good enough -- how would anyone know which dogs are properly permitted? Further, in a city strapped by budget woes, where will the money come from to police the trails -- assuming it's actually possible to enforce human behavior of watching and cleaning up after their charges, and even more impossibly, getting dogs to behave?
Animal behavior is key, and it is in the nature of animals to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming, to paraphrase the late Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson in one of history's most famous vetoes half a century ago. Then, the subject was a bill requiring that cats be leashed to protect birds. But other than to birds and undesirable rodents, cats aren't the threat that dogs are. Governing bodies, Stevenson wrote, "already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency."
And the city of Duluth shouldn't be in the business of encouraging canine delinquency, either.