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“To Whom it May Concern”

I certainly won’t defend people who neglect to pick up after their dogs (in addition to contributing to filth in our city, they give the rest of us dog owners a bad name), but I’m not sure this is the most effective response:

To Whom it May Concern

(I blocked out the author’s name and phone number in the image.)

That sign is posted to a tree in a smallish park wedged between Park Boulevard and 5th Avenue which has informally become used as a dog park by a lot of people in the neighborhood. It is currently illegal to take one’s dog there, as it is illegal to take one’s dog to most Oakland city parks, but the law is mostly unenforced at this location, and many people let their dogs run around on the grass off leash despite the lack of fencing and the busy streets nearby. (In case anyone is wondering whether I have ever done such a thing myself, I invoke my fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination).

Some local dog owners are trying to get a fenced dog park built there, or to have the whole park designated as a legal dog park, so that dogs can at least be legally allowed in the park on leashes. (Pat Kernighan, who represents my district on the Oakland City Council, is taking an online survey to gauge community interest and opinion regarding a fenced dog park or a dogs-allowed policy in that park.) Naturally, some neighbors are strongly opposed to turning even one end of the park into a dog park, and I wonder if the person who nailed the above note to the tree is part of the backlash against the dog park supporters.

As I said, I can’t defend inconsiderate or irresponsible dog owners, but I wish some of the dog-haters would appreciate the benefits that responsible dog owners bring to their neighborhood. Oftentimes the only people I see walking around the streets in my neighborhood, especially after dark, are other neighbors walking their dogs. All of those “eyes on the street” make everyone in the neighborhood safer against muggers, burglars, car thieves, and so on. And most of the people I know in my surrounding neighborhood are people that I have gotten to know by walking my dog around every day (this includes people who don’t own dogs, but who recognize me and say hello when I’m walking past their homes). Those community benefits may be less quantifiable than a pile of dog shit on the sidewalk, but they are real nonetheless.