Dubuque city council votes to further consider pets in park - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque city council votes to further consider pets in park

The "responsible dog owners' rally" in front of Dubuque's City Hall The "responsible dog owners' rally" in front of Dubuque's City Hall

At its regular meeting Monday evening, the Dubuque City Council faced an issue that has people on both sides howling.

A 1969 Dubuque ordinance bans all dogs from city parks -- making it the only major Iowa city that does this.

Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Des Moines, Davenport and others all allow dogs in parks.

There's a group of people who want Dubuque's ordinance changed and a group that says it is fine just the way it is.

More than a dozen people -- and their pups -- braved the cold Monday to intercept the mayor and city council members as they entered Dubuque's Historic Federal Building, where the council meetings take place.

These dog lovers encouraged the public officials to vote in favor of changing Dubuque's ordinance to allow leashed pets.

John Petko was part of what organizers called "the responsible dog owners' rally."

"We take good care of our dogs and we pick up after our dogs, and I'd be willing to pick up after anyone else's dog if they don't, just to have the privilege of being able to go places where we can't now," Petko said.

At the meeting, council members discussed the ordinance amendment, which would allow cats and dogs in most city parks as long as they're kept on a leash and out of the playground equipment area.

"There's going to be a number of capital improvements needed if we do this," council member David Resnick said. "First of all, we need bag dispensers at all these parks, and we need to have increased enforcement."

Joyce Connors said she has heard from a lot of people on both sides of the issue.

"I am not supportive of having dogs in the park, and I think that's where I'll stay tonight," she said.

Opponents to the change cite concerns over safety and sanitation.

Dubuque man Jim Kress gathered more than 1,000 signatures in favor of keeping the ordinance as is -- and dogs out of the parks.

"I just was hoping to keep children safe in all our parks, and elderly -- that's another thing. They can't get away from dogs," Kress said. "Myself, I don't move that good, so I'd probably have a hard time getting away from dogs. They've got to consider elderly, the young."

Kate Lydon lives in Dubuque with her dog Rocksy and organized a petition of her own, also gathering more than 1,000 signatures. Her petition, however, was in favor of changing the ordinance.

"We totally respect some people aren't dog people, but, to us, they're family, so we just want to take our family -- including the dog -- to the park, and that's really all it comes down to," she said.

Those in favor of dogs in the parks say they would police other dog owners if the amendment passed.

"Our message to the irresponsible owners is, 'Watch out. We're watching you. We're going to hold you accountable. We're going to offer you a baggie to pick up if you don't,'" Lydon said. "I think letting us in the parks would give us the opportunity to let that happen and to let us start policing each other."

A majority of the council members Monday voted to have the Park and Recreation Commission explore new matters brought up at the meeting, such as the cost of waste bag dispensers and the logistics of enforcing leash and clean-up compliance. The council will hear a revised amendment to the ordinance in coming weeks.

The current ordinance allows dogs and cats on leashes on the Granger Creek Nature Trail and in John G. Bergfeld Recreation Area, Medical Associates Greenbelt Park and Miller Riverview Park.

The proposed amendment kept dogs and cats out of Bunker Hill Golf Course, Marshall Park and Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Eagle Point Park, Sutton and Flora parks' swimming pools, inside the fence at McAleece Park and Recreation Complex, and Veterans' Memorial Plaza.

The amendment also prohibited dogs and cats from "play areas" in all parks, which council members asked the commission to more clearly define upon its amendment revision.

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