The darker side of dog parks: abandoned pooches

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    The darker side of dog parks: abandoned pooches

    12:00 AM CST on Sunday, March 7, 2010
    By LORI STAHL / The Dallas Morning News
    lstahl@dallasnews.com

    Dog parks must be created for days such as Saturday, when the sun poked out long enough to shimmer on White Rock Lake. One by one, winter-weary pet owners drifted to Mockingbird Point Dog Park with no greater purpose in mind than letting their pooches run free.

    By midmorning, the two dog parks – one each for dogs under and over 30 pounds – were mosh pits of joyous, stinky abandon. These are the lucky dogs; there's even a vending machine in the parking lot full of squeaky toys and tennis balls.

    But a new breed has emerged. You can sometimes see them when the park closes at night. Their owners have removed the dog collars and walked away.

    Jim Christian, 76, a regular at the park with his three large dogs, estimates as many as 50 dogs have been abandoned at the park during the past 18 months. Once he tried to confront a man who was leaving his pet. When that didn't get a response, he flagged down police officers patrolling the lake on bikes.

    "The policeman looked at me like I was crazy and said, 'We don't have any laws against dumping dogs,' " Christian said.

    "The dumping policy needs to be looked at," said Christian, who has rescued two of his three dogs and paid for shots and exams for others so that they could be put up for adoption. "If there is no policy, there needs to be one."

    Christian frequents the park for large dogs, but it's a similar story in the small dog park. Just last weekend, regular park visitors Betsy Hanson and Debra Gardenier said they saw two dogs being abandoned while theirs were playing. They said they tried to contact authorities but were told it would take a couple of days to arrange a pickup. So they called another regular, Cyndi Carmichael, who took the dogs to her home and gave them a bath.

    By Thursday night, she'd found the dogs a new home with some neighbors, who she said "love them. They are so pleased."

    Carmichael and the others are part of an unofficial corps of dog lovers who are troubled by what they see as a growing problem of dog abandonment. They know the no-kill shelters are full and the city is struggling to provide what services it can. But they can't abide the sight of an abandoned pet.

    They believe the tough economy, whether it's unemployment or a foreclosed home, causes some people to decide they can't afford to keep their pets.

    "What happens is, the first thing people do is let their pets go," Hanson said.

    Although the city of Dallas notes on its Web site that its animal shelter has a "night drop box" for unwanted or stray animals, some worry about having to pay a "surrender" fee to give up a pet. Others may believe that their abandoned pet will fare better if left at a dog park than a shelter because there are so many dog lovers around.

    The pet owners who found a home for the abandoned dogs last weekend say they can't keep up with the demand unless something changes.

    "I wish I had the money and space to adopt every single one I find," Gardenier said.

    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcon...ddogs_07met.ART.Central.Edition1.4b82eed.html
     

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