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WVOX - Places to Take Your Dog

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WVOX 1460AM Radio Show “Places to Take Your Dog” aired Monday March 5th from 8-9pm.  The “Travel & Leisure” show, hosted by Art and Susan Zuckerman, focused on dog parks in Westchester and Ward Acres issues in particular. 

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     We should all thank Art and Susan Zuckerman and WVOX for hosting this very informative show.  The Zuckermans did alot of research and have tons of experience with dog parks and doggie tourism.  Thanks, Art, Susan and WVOX!  Visit WVOX:  http://www.wvox.com/
 
    Present in the studio were the Zuckermans, Kathy and Jeff Wiegand and Dennis During.  Guests and listeners called in.  We heard at the beginning that the there are about 65 million dogs in the U.S. whose owners spend ALOT of money to keep happy!  That represents alot of commercial activity and many votes!
 
    We should all be appreciative of the desire and efforts of Mayor Bramson and the City Council to improve Ward Acres.  But there is still a need to find a fair balance between dog and non-dog owning users of the Park.

Dr. Coren    
     One of the highlights of the show was the call-in discussion with Dr. Stanley Coren, a well-respected scientist and Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia who has written extensively about dogs.  He discussed the "humanity" of dogs - their level of emotion and socialization as compared to humans and their development from 16,000 years ago into "perfect companions" for humans today.  Our canine friends read our body language, our moods and play crucial roles in human healing and mental health.  Visit his website:  http://www.stanleycoren.com/

Other Westchester Communities Support Dog Parks 
     We heard from THREE Westchester communities who are supporting dog runs or parks:  White Plains ("Bark Park"), Ossining and Bedford.  All three municipalities have, or are building, parks for off-leash dog activities.  Bedford is even adding a dog-agility course to its facility! 
 
    Art played his interview with Hon. Glenn Hockley from White Plains who told us of his and Hon. Joseph M. Delfino's (Mayor of White Plains) enthusiastic support of their "Bark Park".  Their Park addressed the concerns of dog owners and non-dog owners alike and has brought the community together.  A dog-friendly municipality will attract new residents and build lots of goodwill with its citizens.

     One caller told us about the Millie Bush Dog Park in Houston, TX.  It sounds great and maybe we should think about something like that.  Take a look at  http://www.houstondogpark.org/locations.htm.  While you are there, note how many dog parks Houston has!  

Unfair to Non-Residents
    Non-residents of New Rochelle been paying their taxes to the State, whose funds were used to buy Ward Acres in the 60's, and the County who has paid AT LEAST $500,000 to improve Ward Acres.  Now non-residents must pay $250 PER DOG to use Ward Acres whether on or off-leash?  Compare that to $240 which gets a Westchester family (2 adults plus any children) an all-season pass to FIVE county-wide swimming pools.
Safety Concerns are REAL
     We highlighted the danger of vagrancy and vandalism in Ward Acres once the City begins its enforcement of its meager off-leash hours.  The presence of off-leash dogs and the free ambling of their owners has helped keep the Park safe.  We worry about those "empty" hours during the middle of the day and after school...
 
     One caller expressed a fear that Ward Acres will "turn into Saxon Woods" - meaning that the reduced use of the Park will create more opportunity for some of the "unsavory" human behaviors that have been reported in Saxon Woods.
 
    Some people said once the rules are in effect that they would NOT enter the Park alone. 
New Rules Burden Families and Single Moms
     A single mother called in to point out that the ONLY time she can enjoy Ward Acres with her dog is in the afternoon time when all off-leash activity is prohibited.  We added that our teens love going to Ward Acres with us (parents!) and Lulu, but the only time we can do that is on the weekends.  Alas, under the new rules, we'll have to get our teens up well before 10 AM!  Fat chance of that!  How many activities can you get your teen to do with you?
 
Loss of Caretaking
     We think the City risks losing its invaluable corps of volunteer caretakers of Ward Acres.  The off-leash hours are so limited, and the non-resident fees so high, that many users who have been devotedly maintaining the Park in a myriad of ways will simply stop.  Who will pick up the slack?  Does the City have room in its budget to do that?  We doubt it.  They've neglected it for decades and have other more urgent priorities.
 
Framing the Alternatives
     We briefly listed possible changes or alternative rules to balance users' interests. 
  • Allocation of hours?  Exclusion of all off-leash afternoon hours is just too extreme, it cuts out too many dog owners.
  • Alternate Days?  Why not alternate days between dog use and human use?  That gives everyone maximum flexibility, entire days to use the Park as they wish.  (Odd/even days or Mon, Wed, Sat/Sun,Tues, Thurs, Fri)
  • Partition the Park?  Plenty of acres, allocate a portion to dogs and the rest to no dogs.  Dog and non-dog use, all day every day.
  • Dog Run?  A Millie Bush style dog run, large enough to handle the expected number of users, might ease the problems arising from limited off-leash hours.
Each of these scenarios or a combination of them has its pros and cons for discussion and analysis.

Conclusion
     It was a very informative hour.  We learned alot about dogs and what other communities are doing.  We expressed concerns about the City's new ordinance.  We didn't have time to cover everything or take everyone's calls, but we hope this program furthered discussion and dialog for the benefit of all.  Thanks again to the Zuckermans and WVOX.

We Love Ward Acres  *  New Rochelle  *  New York