Hoffman's Houston
a cautionary tail, part 2

Readers respond to Ken Hoffman's dog park disaster in Bellaire

Readers respond to Ken Hoffman's dog park disaster in Bellaire

Johnny Steele Dog Park Allen Parkway
Are the lurking dangers at dog parks worth the potential risk? Photo by Jacob Power

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about my dog Sally being attacked by three dogs (one owner) at Officer Lucy Dog Park in Bellaire. Admittedly, I was furious when I wrote the column. I am still furious. Despite a big sign with a long list of safety rules, this one person was allowed to bring his three big, violent dogs into that dog park. I managed to get my dog (and me) out of the park safely.

During our ensuing shouting, the owner of the other dogs told me, “I was here first” and “If you don’t like it, don’t bring your dog in here.” The owner was right about one thing. I didn’t like it, and I won’t bring my dog there.

In fact, I won’t bring my dog to any public dog park where there is no supervision, no assurance that vicious and sick dogs aren’t present. It’s just not worth the risk.

Dog park danger
It turns out, I did the smart thing. I did not confront the other dog owner. I called the Bellaire cops. Three officers, plus the city’s animal control officer, arrived within 10 minutes. They talked to the owner of the vicious dogs, and he left. The police now have a report with information about this person and his dogs.

In Texas, if a dog harms another dog, the owner could be responsible for the vet bills resulting from his dog attacking another dog. If the owner’s dog kills another dog, the owner could be responsible for replacing the dead dog. Yeah, that would make everything okay. Your dog killed my dog, my best friend, the dog I loved like there’s no tomorrow … but you’re going to give me $50 to get another one?

If that owner’s dogs had killed Sally that day, I would have spent that night in jail.

Readers respond
Reader reaction to my column surprised me. I understand that people are passionate about their dogs (nobody more than me) and dog parks are popular. I expected to hear strong defenses of dog parks. That was not the case. Here are some of the responses I received.

  • “My dog also got attacked at the gate of Officer Lucy Dog Park; a pit bull grabbed him by the throat, tearing the skin and requiring stitches.”
  • “At the very least, they’ll get loaded with fleas.”
  • “My dog was attacked twice at a dog park. I was frightened my dog would get killed. No more.”
  • “Dog parks harbor disease, excrement, vicious dogs, and a-hole owners. We would never take our sweet girl to one.”
  • “I think they are great. I wish people would bring their dogs there and not to restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and other places that are intended for humans.”
  • “We used to go to dog parks all the time, but then our dog was attacked. I overheard the owner say after we pulled his dog off mine, ‘He always does this.’ My dog ended up with a $800 medical bill.”
  • “Do not confront the bad dog owner — you and your dog could wind up sharing a hospital room.”
  • “Come to Eadog Park. We are all a family and are familiar with everyone’s dog. If anyone’s dog acts up, we ask them to kindly leave. We don’t tolerate that behavior.”
  • “I used to be all about dog parks, until my sweet pup was attacked at Eadog park. The owner took no responsibility and simply said, ‘My dog doesn’t like it when other dogs run around like that.’ My pup ended up having to get $1,000 worth of medical procedures done.”
  • “They’re filthy, germ-and-bacteria-infested areas with people who don’t get their dogs vaccinated. Parvovirus can live in the grass for years.”
  • “Dog parks are the worse. My Lola got a fungal and bacterial infection the first and last time at one of those establishments.”
  • “Call the police. That’s what I did. Also take a photo of the dog owner and the bad dogs.”

The aftermath
I did take a photo of the dog owner and his dogs. About a week later, a neighbor asked how Sally was doing. We started talking, and I showed him the photo of the dog owner. He said, “I’ve seen him at Officer Lucy Dog Park! I won’t take my dogs in there if he’s there. I’ve seen his dogs go after other dogs.”

Got a note from Bellaire city manager Paul Hofmann. He questioned whether allowing one person to bring three dogs to Officer Lucy Dog Park is too many. He added, “I asked staff to research the extent to which other dog parks limit the number of dogs in their parks.”

From now on, I’m arranging play dates with neighborhood dogs. For example, my dog’s new running buddies are Palmer and Hogan — a couple of English Setters a block over. Their owner is a golf nut.  

If you don’t live in a neighborhood with backyards, here’s another way for your dog to meet and play with other pooches in a supervised, clean environment. The Believe in Dog Training facility, 1026 W. 26th St. in Houston is starting “Friday Night Socials.”

According to Believe in Dog Training owner Stephanie Bennett, “Our socials are off-leash play times designed to give the dogs an opportunity to run free and play in a safe, structured environment. Unlike the dog park, you won’t have to worry about inclement weather, unvaccinated dogs, inappropriate dogs and people. The socials will be supervised by a certified professional dog trainer.”

Friday Night Socials will move to Sunday afternoons next month. The cost is $15 per dog. For more information and rules (and there are plenty of rules), visit the Believe in Dog Training official site.

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How do you feel about dog parks? Let Ken know on Twitter.