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Baltimore leash law debated on radio

Baltimore city’s leash law – and the new $1,000 fine violators of it face – was alternately blasted and defended on WEAA’s Marc Steiner Show last night as four guests and numerous caller-inners voiced their opinions and offered solutions.

The city increased the leash law fine from $100 to $1,000 in February, then followed up with a crackdown on violators.

William Cole, the city councilman who, though he was among those approving the increased fines, is now seeking to have them lowered, and said last night that the majority of the council feels the same way.

Cole has also introduced an amendment to allow the city Recreation and Parks Department establish off-leash hours in designated areas of city parks.

Cole said he favors fines of $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second, and $1,000 for a third. But he also said, at one point, “I would hope that any animal control officer responding to a complaint is first going to give a warning.”

Cole also displayed some excellent hair-splitting skills when he said that the new law, while it does produce new revenue for the city, “is not a revenue-producing bill.”

And he was slightly off the mark when he assured listeners that a dog park in Latrobe Park in Locust Point – the first the city has chosen to take part in opening – would be ready in “in the next couple weeks … two months?” Mary Porter, design planner for the city Department of Recreation and Parks, then corrected him, saying, “end of the summer.”

Also on the program were Judith Kunst, a single mother and dog owner involved in the petition effort to reduce the fines (1,316 signatures so far), and Robert Joyce, a dog owner and lawyer who has offered to represent, pro bono, anyone fined $1,000 for having their dog off leash.

You can hear the podcast here.

Cole admitted that the city council wasn’t aware it was increasing the off-leash fine when it approved the bill, saying it was included in a category marked “other offenses” that no one seems to have bothered to look into. “Quite frankly, we didn’t pick up on it,” he said.

Porter, of the parks department, said the city was eager to “partner” with groups interested in starting dog parks, but warned not all city parks are equipped to accommodate them.

At Latrobe Park, she said, the new Locust Point Dog Park will cost $200,000 to build, about $44,000 of which has been raised by the dog park citizens group.

A member of the group trying to establish a dog park in Patterson Park called into the show to point out that they’ve been working on the project since 2001, and has followed all the steps the city requires.

Porter responded that among the “many issues” at Patterson Park is a lack of consensus on where it should be located.

Kunst said the fines are out of line, and pointed out that a man who urinates on her house and exposes himself faces only a $150 fine under city law. She said $250 for unleashed dogs would also be exorbitant.
Most callers said the city needs more dog parks, and opportunities for dogs to exercise.

One though, identifying herself as Robin, said she and her leashed Yorkie get intimidated by unleashed large dogs at Druid Hill Park. “They come up and try to interact with my dog. I don’t want strange dogs coming up to my dogs.” Robin added, “People who want to have large dogs should actually reconsider living in the city.”


Comment from ItsaNoBrainer
Time May 6, 2009 at 10:10 am

Concerning Patterson Park—No Consensus on location? Mary Porter did not listen to the comments—the Patterson park Group worked with the neighborhoods, held public forums, conducted surveys, worked with Friends of Patterson park and selected a site from that process which gained approval from surrounding neighborhood associations, involved the Neighborhood Design Center which involved their Urban planners and Landscape Designers and came up with a plan that was even in the Parks Department Map for improvements. What more does one need? $$ and knowing the right people-The change in city government as well as change in directorship at the park’s friends group erased all that work. At first the new director’s group told the dog group the site did not lend itself to expansion, then a host of other issues, like a dog park sits atop an old stream that is now a sewer and will pollute the harbor. This whole process has left many people disheartened. Nothing has changed as far as commitment from the community here who supports one–it is the constant change in city government which moves faster than any progress such projects can make and it is back to square one. It seems a slap in the face to the groups who have worked and played by the city’s guidelines only to have them change the goal posts and ignore the community’s input.