Manassas Journal Messenger | Board loosens leash laws for dog parks

Dogs in Prince William County are allowed to run off their leashes in designated dog parks, according to a decision made by the county supervisors Tuesday.

The 4-2 vote that amended the county code is the first step toward developing a dog park that enthusiasts said is a much-needed county facility.

There are no dog parks in the county and no specific locations were formally proposed at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, but plenty of people said they’d volunteer to get one started.

Michelle Donath, a resident of Stafford County who travels to Fairfax County to let her two Jack Russell terriers run free, said she’d be one to help.

Her dogs are “jumpers” and have tons of energy, she said. That’s why she makes the trip across Prince William County two or three times a week just to let the frisky pups frolic.

Her mother Christine Swanson said dogs parks are great places where she gets “such an education” on training them.

Cleaning up dog waste, one concern of a few supervisors, isn’t an issue at the Fairfax South Run dog park, said Swanson, owner of Dixie, a Jack Russel-beagle mix.

“For the most part, people know the rules,” she said. She and Kerry Broughton of Occoquan said they’ve both cleaned up after other people’s dogs at other dog parks.

“Because I don’t want to lose the park,” said Swanson.

Broughton said the social pressure to pick up after them is effective.

“We usually tell them, ‘Hey, you need to pick up after your dog,’ or give them a look,” she said.

Broughton also signed up to volunteer to find a place for a dog park in Prince William and to maintain it.

“They need to run full speed,” Broughton said of dogs, including her beagle named Lilly. “You just can’t do that in the house.”

Supervisor Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, said she’s been a dog owner for a long time, but she voted against amending the leash law.

There are too many neighborhoods in her district with no swings or slides for children and she said she didn’t want to see any tax payer money go toward a dog park before it went to children.

“I’m sorry, but I have to put the children first,” Barg said.

Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, who owns a boxer, also voted against the amendment.

“I’d like to have more information. I’d like to know the dollars and cents,” she said.

None were presented because no specific places have been mapped out.

Debbie Andrew, acting Park Authority director, said volunteers would be in charge of maintaining the park’s cleanliness.

An operating agreement would enforce the volunteer group’s obligations before the park opens, according to a county staff report.

Park Authority staff responsibilities would be limited to normal maintenance, such as mowing grass and emptying trash cans.

Supervisor L. Ben Thompson, R-Brentsville, said that his vote for the law’s amendment is a step to help the group move forward and added that any money the Park Authority wanted to spend on a dog park would have to get the supervisors’ OK first.

Supporters of the dog park who spoke at the meeting said dog parks facilitate dog socialization.

Socialization with other dogs helps them interact with others better when they’re on their daily leash walks, said one woman.

Supervisor Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-At Large, and Supervisors Ruth T. Griggs, R-Occoquan, and Mary K. Hill, R-Coles, also voted to allow dogs to run without leashes at dog parks.

Supervisor John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco was absent from the meeting due to a family emergency. Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, I-Gainesville, was also absent from the vote.

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