The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Keeping dogs, owners safe at Kutztown Dog Park


By lmitchell@berksmontnews.com">Lisa Mitchell, Patriot Editorlmitchell@berksmontnews.com

Monday, January 21, 2013

To keep dogs and their owners safe in the new Dog Park, Kutztown Borough Council recently approved a list of rules.
“The rules were designed to keep all dogs, dog handlers and minors inside the Dog Park as safe as possible,” said Jennifer Hess, Ktown K9 Crew co-chair.
The Ktown K9 Crew, consisting of Kutztown area residents and dog owners, have transformed the former skating rink and turned it into a Dog Park at the Kutztown Park.
About six months ago, Kutztown Borough Council President Kevin Snyder explained that the citizens group, the Ktown K9 Crew, presented to Council the idea of a Dog Park locatedin the space previously used asan ice skating rink.
“Since the Skating Rink has only been used sparingly during the last four or five years due to unseasonably warm winters, and then onlyfor a couple of weeks a year, it is thought to make better use of the space for the entire year,” said Snyder.
Since this is a fenced-in area, Synder said people will be able to unleash their dogs and let them run free, which is currently not allowed in the Kutztown Park.
“A dog park is a place for dogs to be able to run, play and interact off-leash with other dogs,” said Hess. “Many communities have added them to their community due to the growing trend of dog owners wanting a place to take their dog. Some dog owners do not have a large fenced-in yard to allow their dog to run and play off-leash, so this is a great way for owners to allow their dog the freedom to run safely off-leash.”
Synder said all users of the Dog Park will be required to register with the Borough for permission to use the Park and all dogs must be licensed.
“The rules of the Park have been established and reviewed by the Borough’s insurance company, limiting our liability,” said Snyder. “The Borough will not be ‘running or operating’ the Park but will be self-policed by the group (Ktown K9 Crew) who proposed the park. They have done fundraising to make several improvements to the park including benches and plans for more trees.”
Hess said that the rules, approved by Council Jan. 15, were a collaboration of rules from dog parks already in use and/or approved rules for dog parks “in the making” in Berks and Lehigh counties.
“It took a few revisions and meetings before the Borough, the insurance company and the Ktown K9 Crew felt 100 percent comfortable with all of the rules,” said Hess.
At the top of the list is “Owners are responsible for their dogs and any injuries caused by them.”
Also, animals other than dogs are not allowed. All dogs must be registered with the Borough, must be licensed with Berks County and must wear a visible license tag.
A concern for the Borough, insurance company and the K9 Crew was safety, including the number of dogs being handled at one time by the dog owner or handler and the concern of someone (adult or child) or a dog getting hurt, explained Hess.
Rule No. 4 addresses this, “Each responsible adult may not bring more than three dependents (maximum 2 dogs and one minor under the age of 12) with them into the Dog Park.”
Also, dogs must be leashed when entering and exiting the Dog Park.
Another major issue is always dog feces, said Hess.
“It never fails that some dog owners or handlers are not responsible and do not pick up behind their dog,” said Hess.
Rule No. 6 requires owners clean up after their dogs.
One of the K9 Crew members donated a Doggie Clean-Up station which provides doggie trash bags for users of the Dog Park. The borough also placed a large trash can inside the Dog Park for easy disposal of trash and dog waste.
Hess said the K9 Crew will also be keeping a close eye on the Dog Park.
“The Ktown K9 Crew assured the Borough that we will patrol the Dog Park for feces so that it is NOT an issue for Borough employees who need to mow the grass in this area,” said Hess.
Conflicts between dogs was also addressed in the rules. No aggressive dogs are allowed. Owners are to not allow their dog to mount other dogs. Dogs displaying aggressive behavior must be removed.
Also, female dogs in heat are prohibited and un-neutered male dogs must be closely monitored. Puppies under the age of four months are prohibited.
For safety reasons, the rules prohibit bringing dog bones, dog treats, or human food inside the dog park.
The Kutztown K9 Crew officially began the process for the new dog park’s creation in July.
“Since then, we have received Borough approval to use this area as a place where dogs could be off-leash, and the area was no longer to be used as an ice skating rink,” said Hess.
The K9 Crew made changes to the area.
“We made the area safer by lowering some of the fencing and entrance gate so that small dogs could not escape under the fence or gate,” she said.
Also, she said the Doggie Clean-Up station and trash can were added to the area for convenience and cleanliness of the area. Donation jars were placed in several Kutztown stores and business to collect donations for the Dog Park.
The K9 Crew also created a Facebook page, which now has 123 followers.
“People post comments, photos of dogs at the park, or try to coordinate meeting up with other owners and dogs at the park,” she said.
Hess estimated that there are about 20 residents or families who use the Dog Park area regularly, weekly or multiple times during the week.
“We think when the weather warms up in Spring, the dog park is going to be very busy!”
When asked about the benefits of the Dog Park to the community, Hess there have been several benefits already.
“And the Dog Park is not even fully functioning yet! Dogs are getting regular physical exercise and new social interactions and experiences with humans and other dogs,” said Hess. “It has also been fun getting to know other people in the community, who probably would not have otherwise met or had conversations in ‘normal’ circumstances.”
“It has been a really fun place to meet new people, share fun times with their dogs, and enjoy the peacefulness of the park!” said Hess.
The Borough is purchasing a durable sign listing all of the dog park rules. This will be posted at the entrance to the Dog Park.
Upon receipt and posting of this sign, the Borough will release the Rules/Registration Form and post it on their website so that all dog owners interested in using the dog park can complete and submit the Registration Form for their dog.
Also, she said the Borough will mark the water line inside the Dog Park area, so that the Ktown K9 Crew can begin working on the double-gate entry system.
“This is the next biggest project, which will make the area much safer for dogs entering and exiting the Dog Park area,” said Hess.
The Ktown K9 Crew also hopes to work with the Borough to change the current water pipe to a water faucet that can be used to fill dog water bowls, she said.
The Ktown K9 Crew also plans to refurbish some old, unused park benches to be placed inside the Dog Park area for use by dog owners.
Rules for Ktown K9 Park
1. Owners are responsible for their dogs and any injuries caused by them.
2. Animals other than dogs are not allowed.
3. All dogs must be registered with the Kutztown Borough, legally licensed with Berks County, wear a visible County-issued license tag and have current vaccinations.
4. Each responsible adult may not bring more than three dependents (maximum 2 dogs and one minor under the age of 12) with them into the Dog Park.
5. Dogs must be leashed when entering or leaving the Dog Park.
6. Dog feces must be cleaned up by the dog owner/handler and disposed of in marked trash receptacles.
7. No aggressive dogs. Do not let your dog mount other dogs. Dogs displaying aggressive behavior must be removed.
8. Female dogs in heat are prohibited.
Un-neutered male dogs must be closely monitored.
9. Puppies under the age of four months are prohibited.
10. For safety reasons, no dog bones, dog treats, or human food is allowed inside the dog park.
11. Professional dog trainers/behaviorists and dog walkers are not permitted to use the dog park to conduct business unless they are participating in a park sponsored program approved by the municipality.
12. The park hours are Dawn to 10:30 p.m.
13. Dog owners who fail to comply with the above rules may by cited by police.