No Dog Pens In a Residential Neighborhood!
This is the real story of a resident in West Virginia small town fighting right now to prevent a dog park of being set up in a residential area. And this article brings a few ideas on how to prevent that.
Firstly we publish her ordeal, both the short and long story, then we talk about a pre-plan on How to Avoid a Dog Park in YOUR Neighborhood – Guide, a list of options that we strongly hope we could use in case that happened to any one of us. If you want to skip directly to the What-Can-We-Do part just click on the link above.
Remember, this is an ongoing case, happening as we speak.
I started following this site about two years ago in deep desperation to stop my city from putting in two dog pens in a small residential park that is less than an acre in size and is the only open area we have in this housing district for two miles on either side. It has been a battle, with everyone telling me how crazy I am because I do not want a 100 x 50 foot dog pen next to my home, nor does anyone except two people of the more than 100 homes that directly surround this park. I have decided to start a Go Fund Me Page so that this neighborhood can sue the City. I am hoping by posting the Go Fund Me Page here, others will read it and help our cause if they can. I am beside myself. I cannot believe the city is doing this to us. It’s crazy.
Full story in greater detail:
No Dog Pens In a Residential Neighborhood
“At least 4.5 – 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 to 30 of these bites result in death.” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_dog_attacks_in_the_United_States)
I moved to Bluefield, West Virginia eight years ago because my ancestors founded the town, and I was on a father quest. It is a sleepy, former coal town that is comprised of two sister towns that converge upon each other on the border of Virginia and West Virginia under the gaze of the ancient East River Mountain. I love this town. Its natural beauty is breathtaking, and among its famous sons, it counts John Nash, the Nobel Laureate and subject of the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Not a day goes by that I don’t look up at that mountain and find myself startled by its magnificence and mightiness. And times are hard for a lot of us here. Many are being forced to leave for the jobs that bigger towns and cities offer and Bluefield, West Virginia is virtually crumbling and dying. The downtown area that used to be called “Little New York” for the number of high rises that rapidly rose in its heyday is now a virtual ghost town, its buildings currently occupied by government and city offices, but very few businesses and pedestrians. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bluefield,_West_Virginia)
The city government says it is trying to attract business interest, but the town continues to shrivel and die. It seems their efforts are in vain. But two years ago, the mayor stumbled upon an idea that he says is going to bring more home buyers and interest to the town. The City Hall has decided, against the wishes of those of us who live in this neighborhood, to remove the playground equipment on a small park less than an acre in size, the only open space on this side of College Avenue for two miles in either direction that serves as the only place for children to play or simply a badly needed open space, and install what they want to call a “Dog Park” on the hallowed ground in the middle of a historical residential neighborhood, which has family homes bordering the tiny park.
Because big dogs will kill little dogs in “Dog Parks,” the City’s plans are to install two fenced-in areas that will fence humans out of the park and allow dog owners to bring their dogs into it to run “freely” in a 100 x 50 foot dog pen for the “large” dogs, and a 50 x 50 foot fenced in area for the “small” dogs.
I contend that this is not a dog “Park,” but a couple of dog “Pens.” Most dog “parks” are, at minimum, three acres in size as the point is to allow dogs space in which to roam and run, and most dog “parks” are not placed in the middle of a historical, residential neighborhood full of elderly and children. In fact, there is legal precedence for its denial in and removal from residential neighborhoods.
In 2014, a law suit was brought against an existing dog park in Reston, Virginia. The dog park affected 100 homes in a subdivision. We have more than 100 homes immediately surrounding our park here in Bluefield. The homes in Reston were stated as being 300-400 feet from the dog park and had a buffer of trees and a sound wall! A judge in Reston granted a preliminary injunction against the park. In the end, the dog park was moved into an interior section of the 60-acre Baron Cameron Park where the dogs could bark to their heart’s delight and no one living nearby had to be disturbed by the noise nuisance. ( http://www.restonnow.com/2014/03/12/reston-dog-park-neighbors-file-court-order-asking-for-shutdown/)
I want to reiterate again that this is a historical, residential neighborhood with almost 200 homes that immediately surround this small park, and I can tell you that, among us neighbors, there are only two people who approve of this project, and one of them works for the City. My home and the home of the neighbor behind me are directly adjacent to what will be the “large” dog pen. This neighbor and I will have side seats to the destruction of this tiny park and the noise that barking dogs will bring. In my quickly approaching old age, I will now have a large “dog” pen within 30 feet of my home windows.
Another 20 homes directly bordering the park are within 50 feet of the soon-to-be-constructed dog “pens.” None of us want to live next to dog “pens.” None of us should have to fight City Hall over this matter, but we have been forced to, and our cries are being ignored by a City Hall that seems to think having two dog pens on less than an acre of land in a historical, residential neighborhood is going to solve the City’s woes?
They have brought in people to the town hall meetings, who do not live in our neighborhood, to tell us how great these two dog pens will be. They scoff at our complaints against the destruction of our neighborhood, our peace and tranquility, by saying that everyone wants a dog “park,” but no one wants it in their neighborhood! These were the exact words out of our mayor’s mouth. But we say to him, we do not think dog “pens” should be placed in anyone’s residential neighborhood! But he ignores us and instead tries to spin a specious straw man fallacy.
We think this is pure insanity and bad public policy that is ignoring the wishes and well-being of an established “historical” neighborhood. But we are powerless against a City Hall that seems to vote for anything the mayor wants? But we are the citizens! We are the ones who will have to live with the noise and toxic pollution to our beautiful neighborhood! And we are the ones who pay taxes.
Food for thought:
A large dog barks at a decibel level of 70 decibels! At 45 decibels, distraction that prevents a human from concentrating occurs. When decibel levels reach 60, the human body begins to experience adverse health effects. According to the Guinness World Book of Records, the loudest recording of a “group” of dogs reached decibels of 124, just five decibels less than a jet airplane! ( http://www.anilak.com/sound-level-dog-barking/)
When confronted with this fact, our mayor said dogs do not bark in dog parks! Those were his exact words!
From Wikipedia: “One obligation of a community is to protect its citizens from adverse environmental influences. Noise is one of these factors. Noise has documented effects on people, they can be divided into three types. The first type is a physical effect that directly and adversely effects a person’s health. Hearing loss and vibration of bodily components are examples. The second type is a physiological effect that adversely effects (sic) a person’s health; heightened blood pressure and general stress response are examples. The third type is psychological that adversely effects a person’s welfare; examples are distraction, annoyance, and complaint.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_regulation)
In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put dog waste in the same category as oil and toxic chemicals. “A single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which are known to cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness, and serious kidney disorders in humans. The EPA estimates that two to three days of waste from just 100 dogs would contribute enough bacteria to temporarily close a bay, and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it, to swimming and shell fishing.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that pet waste can contribute to “zoonoses,” diseases passed to humans from animals. The eggs of parasites (hookworms, ringworms, tapeworms, etc.) deposited in the ground from dog waste can linger in the soil for years and have the potential of infecting not only humans, but the dogs themselves. ( http://www.zerowasteusa.com/advice.asp)
And did you know dog waste can even penetrate the air we breathe? In a recent study done on air quality in Cleveland and Detroit, it was found that “10 to 50 percent of the bacteria came from dog poop.” ( http://archive.onearth.org/articles/2014/03/dogs-poop-so-much-that-were-running-out-of-places-to-put-it ) I would only add that in a very short time, dog parks smell like stock yards.
And Bluefield is not even following their own ordinances! According to City Ordinance Chapter 4, Sec. 4-7, Permit to keep animals and fowl:
“No chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, live poultry or fowl of any kind, horses, ponies, cows, calves, rabbits, guinea pigs or live animals of any kind except dogs and cats shall be kept in the city without the owner thereof having received a permit to keep the same from the city clerk and approved by the city manager. No charge will be made for such permit, but such permit will only be granted upon agreement that the stable, barn, coop or other place where such animals, poultry or fowl are to be kept shall be constructed in such a manner that it can be kept and maintained in a dry, clean and sanitary condition, free from offensive odors. Applications for such permits shall be accompanied by a certificate of consent signed by a majority of the householders residing within a radius of 500 feet from the place where such barn stable, coop or other place where animals, fowl or poultry are kept shall be built and maintained or used within 50 feet of any house inhabited by human beings and unless built and maintained in a clean, dry, sanitary condition and free from offensive odors, and provided further, that none of the above enumerated poultry, fowl or animals shall be allowed to run at large, but shall be housed in a suitable enclosure. Such enclosure shall be kept thoroughly clean and unobjectionable at all times. Upon the failure of any owner or occupant of any premises to comply with any of the provisions of this section, such barn, stable, coop, etc., shall be deemed a nuisance, and as such shall be removed or abated as provided by law.”
The City of Bluefield has not complied with their own ordinances in regard to their plans to build two dog pens in our tiny neighborhood park. They need a certificate of consent from all of us who live within 500 feet of these proposed dog pens. A majority of us have expressed our objection to this proposed construction, why is the City of Bluefield proceeding with their plans? It is our neighborhood, we have the right to deny the city permission to build these dog pens.
The City of Bluefield has recently purchased a large parcel of land that lies in an undeveloped, rural area adjacent to the city’s 440 acre City Park!
Why would the City not put its dog park, a real dog park, not two fenced in areas on less than an acre of land, on this acreage that it has bought adjacent to the 440 acre City Park? Why does the City insist on destroying our neighborhood, its fabric and peace and tranquility and environmental safety instead? With all of our vociferous objection to these dog “pens” and the City’s more amenable locations for such an animal facility, we neighbors are left befuddled that the City insists on putting such a toxic waste dump and noise producer in our residential neighborhood. Why is the City taking away our tiny park and giving it to dogs? Dogs are already allowed in the park provided they are on a leash and under the control of a walker.
Those of us who live in this town and this particular neighborhood are working class poor and retirees. We do not have the money to fight City Hall. If you could consider donating to a defense fund that will enable this neighborhood to take the City to court against this intrusion on and danger to our lives, we would be grateful and feel such an effort, given past legal precedence, will meet with legal vindication.
We propose instead that this tiny park be given back its playground equipment and that benches be put back in so that we may enjoy its beauty and the majesty of East River Mountain and maintain the safety, security and integrity of our small neighborhood, that we may continue to live our lives under East River Mountain in peace and quiet, with the only open area within two miles of this section of town preserved as such, an open area for children and neighbors to enjoy.
Thank you for your consideration and any monetary help you may be able to provide. If we are successful in bringing suit against the City and winning such suit, it is my understanding that the City will be responsible for incurring our legal costs as the loser of said suit, in which case your donations will be returned. I may be wrong about this provision of litigation law, but we have no recourse but to sue the City against its plans to destroy our neighborhood, because despite all our vociferous denunciation of this stupid idea, we remain powerless and ignored.
Because of their plans, I was forced to put what I thought would be my retirement home up for sale. I have been unsuccessful in selling my home. Times here are economically hard. But I will never be able to sell a home that borders a 100 x 50 foot fenced dog pen! I am beside myself with grief and anxiety over this. I cannot imagine how I will withstand living next to a pen of barking dogs and its stench. All of us residents are sick over this encroachment into our neighborhood.
Again, thank you for any financial consideration to a law suit against these dog pens in our residential neighborhood that you might be inclined to donate.
The citizens of Rockbridge St., Shenandoah Ave., Albemarle, St., Pearl St., East River Mountain Ave., and Wythe Ave., Bluefield, West Virginia.
Help spread the word!
WHAT WE CAN DO
A Guide on How to Avoid a Dog Park in YOUR Neighborhood
I’ve never been on their shoes but I want to provide my support with what I would do in her situation. This is certainly Not a perfect and final plan but is entirely feasible.
- Do not compromise
The City will come with all kinds of “concessions”, like if they were the good guys and you were begging for favors: they would build a noise barrier, they would provide a daily cleaner for the park, they will assure dog owners will be responsible, no dogs will scape, they would enforce strict times for dogs in the park… Do NOT believe them! We all know very well that politicians and dog owners are Not the most trustworthy people on Earth.
- Get ALL the people to work with you
Don’t try to face this uphill battle alone, you are not the only one being affected by the dog park. Try to get all the help you could from others, specially the directly affected neighbors. The more people, the better, BUT only pro-active and positive persons. Be very careful with the naysayers.
- Document Everything
And I mean EVERYTHING. I’m sure you understand me.
- Collect signatures of affected residents
Try and do get signatures (with full name and any ID number) from all the people residing in the affected area. If there are more than one adult in each property, try to get theirs too as they will be equally affected.
- Collect signatures of other supporting citizens around town
This may be helpful in case most people in your city/town can understand how devastating it is.
- Create a leaflet on the hazards of having a dog park nearby
Design a leaflet and distribute it to the people when collecting their signatures. This may help them on better understanding the problems. Don’t forget to point out how their properties will have their value strongly depreciated.
- Contact real state agents
Ask them if they have info on the values of the affected residences in the area; those values have already decreased since the announcement of this new park?; or do they have info on other areas that, after getting a dog park, quick lost their value?
- Collect all the info on the politicians and other city staff involved
Specially regarding the Mayor here, who seems to be the head in this insanity, get all information on him: photos, decisions, relationships (dog lobby?)… Politicians only want to be elected and re-elected, they don’t want bad publicity, so let’s provide that for them. All real stuff, we don’t need to make anything up, there is lots of material already for sure.
- Collect all kinds of Laws, Bylaws, Ordinances and regulations
As you already did by mentioning the Reston, VA, lawsuit on this same matter, as well as their own City Ordinance, which the Mayor is ILLEGALLY not complying with.
- Collect all kinds of supporting material and data
As you greatly did by mentioning the CDC, EPA and others. Everything we could on each aspect: health, noise, diseases, odors, attacks, property value devaluation…
- List all kinds of dog attacks in the area, and vicinity
If you don’t have them try your state.
- Go to local hospitals and collect list of injuries caused by dogs
Hopefully your local hospitals will have logs on dog bites, even possibly maimings and maulings. Get a copy of them all if you can. You don’t want names just how many people were attacked and how, the severity of the injuries. If they have them but refuse, ask your lawyer to do so. More on that below.
- Ask all your friends/family out of town to email/call the Mayor
Beyond you and your neighbors calling the Mayor And other relevant city personnel, tell your friends/family members in other cities/states/countries to email or call the Mayor complaining about this problem.
- Create a Campaign page on Facebook
As today the Internet seems to be on Facebook, create a campaign about this matter. Photos of the Mayor and other civil servants working on this mess would greatly help. Just be absolutely truthful.
- Create a Campaign to Collect Funds
You did it quite well as this will also help to promote your cause. Try to get private donations as we are aware that too many people do not want to have their names involved, even when they strongly support the cause (Social Acceptance).
- Go to the press
Contact your local newspaper, radio, TV station, news sites, people of influence… and tell them your story. The honest and independent businesses are always fond of a good and controversial story, and your surely is. Specially when involving public figures.
- Talk to a Lawyer
Actually several different lawyers and see what they say. Be very careful not to talk to an attorney who is connected to the City/Mayor. This attorney must be a private one, Not from Small Claims Court, or have an relationship with the city.
- Try to get a Lawyer’s Office willing to work pro bono.
Like winning the lottery but we never know. Such a case will provide lots of publicity and a smart lawyer’s office could take advantage of it by mutually helping them and you. And all your neighborhood, too.
- Hire a Lawyer.
No, not for the entire litigation but just to write a strongly worded legal document with all the data and info you collected clearly demonstrating that the City/Mayor is committing a CRIME and that a full litigation process could ensue if they don’t cease and desist with committing their CRIMINAL acts in a timely manner. This usually can get the City/Mayor thinking twice and hopefully doing the right thing instead. Not free for you and your neighbors but certainly a tiny fraction of a lengthy and costly lawsuit. Worth a try, for sure.
This is better for the City/Mayor, too, since that beyond the criminal charges they would be sued for financial damages as well. Personally, not just the city.And, the worst of all for a politician: BAD PUBLICITY
(TRANSLATING: NOT BEING RE-ELECTED!).
Like I said, this guide is just a draft at this point and other important info shall come. In case anyone have other suggestions or constructive criticism, please let us know.
How can we do better?
Just imagine: what if that were happening to you and your family?
We’d love to hear from you (If you want full privacy, just send it here).