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Beaver Dam to consider allowing dogs in city parks

November 9, 2018

Julie Maree hopes to bring Team Love in Action to Beaver Dam.

That’s what she calls her partnership with her dog, Watson, to spread positive vibes while out and about.

“I like that he comes with me to enjoy life,” she said. “I like having him around wherever I am. He likes to be where I am. If I show up somewhere and Watson’s not there, the first thing people say is, ‘Where’s Watson?’ and then, ‘Hi, Julie,’ secondary.”

However, the two have run into a snafu in Beaver Dam: Dogs aren’t allowed in city parks with the exception of two parks — one that is fenced in and designated as a dog park, and the other listed as “dog friendly.” Maree said that friends will come from other places to visit, perhaps for a picnic at Swan Park, and Watson is unable to join them. City officials are considering changing that.

“I totally understand that there are human places and animal places, but I see potential that humans and leashed dogs could enjoy that together,” Maree said.

Over the summer, she started a Facebook thread on a popular local group about the issue that led to a lot of discussion and people from the city started reaching out to her.

This month, members of the Beaver Dam Operations Committee discussed a list of parks where dogs could be allowed with no official decisions made. They also discussed putting in a system of fines for people who don’t pick up after their dogs on other properties, starting at $50.

The original list did not include certain parks that committee members thought should be on there, such as Rotary Park and Tahoe Park. Officials are continuing to work through the list to determine what is enforceable and manageable.

“I think the drafting of this is experimental,” City Attorney Maryann Schacht said. “If some of the ones you decide are a good fit and work well and poor (Parks Director) John Neumann wouldn’t be running around form park to park having to find all these violators, then I think you can expand it and expand it over the course of time. The people who love dogs and will walk in the parks will hopefully follow the rules and pick up.”

Committee members questioned if it would be confusing to only include some parks and would involve too much signage. They agreed on restricting dogs in certain spaces such as tennis courts and baseball diamonds.

“I would like to open it up, but I think people need to be accountable,” committee member Jane Loizzo said. “We would hope that if someone has a mean dog, they’re not walking through the park, but they’re probably walking it on the street anyway.”

Some other concerns could be people with allergies or fear of animals having to share spaces with more dogs.

“I think generally younger people do tend to want to take their dogs with them I think pets have become much more a part of the family,” Mayor Becky Glewen said. “I think, like just with anything, the vast majority of people are responsible and this would just give our community an opportunity to be more pet-friendly, family-friendly. We already have people who don’t take care and I don’t think this is going to make any big difference in that. I think it will just make the perception that we’re much more friendly.”

Madison prohibits dogs in most parks, with 26 posted parks where dogs are allowed on-leash and on-path. Madison also has several off-leash dogs parks. Fond du Lac, which has about 20 parks, allows dogs in all of them.

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