The pets-in-parks issue is a perplexing one for both sides. Of the top population centers in Iowa, Dubuque is the only one that doesn’t allow leashed pets in parks. Even Central Park in New York City — arguably the most famous city park in the world allows leashed pets.
The social capital dog ownership generates is invaluable, especially in this age of increased isolation. Dogs provide an outlet for many people and being able to spend time with dogs in neighborhood parks provides opportunities for making connections and building community. Particularly among younger generations — the people we want to attract to Dubuque — pets are family members, and certain basic amenities are expected. Across age groups there was a greater than 2:1 ratio in favor of changing the ordinance at the public input session.
The two most common concerns raised are risk of injuries and unbagged dog feces. We cannot let fear be the overriding force against change. Some worry that everyone “won’t follow the rules.” There is no other ordinance that requires 100% compliance.
For five years we have been in a trial period testing increased access to parks for leashed pets. There has been no increase in reports of bites or fecal matter buildup. The buildup of wild geese feces in several areas, on the other hand …
I would ask everyone to review the facts: people and leashed dogs coexisting in parks is not only the norm for society but would be a benefit for Dubuque.