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Dog park proposal gets its day at meeting

About 20 people attended to hear about Washington County's proposed plan for land preservation, parks and recreation

March 29, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, speaks out about the need for county dog parks during a public meeting at Hagerstown Community College Thursday.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

There are no off-leash dog parks in Washington County, but numerous Hagerstown-area canine lovers hope that will change in the future.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the community, and it’s great for the dogs,” Paul Miller, executive director of the Humane Society of Washington County, said Thursday night.

Miller was one of several people who spoke during a public meeting at Hagerstown Community College, urging county officials to include plans for dog parks in its proposed plan for land preservation, parks and recreation.

About 20 people attended the meeting, which was the third in the past few weeks to gather public response on the county’s plan that is updated every five years, said Jill Baker, a senior planner for the county.

“We’re very happy to have this much public input in these types of meetings,” she said.
Previous meetings were held in Boonsboro and Clear Spring.

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The need for more land to ride horses has come up at all three meetings, but this was the first time there was a strong push for dog parks, Baker said.

“It’s a slow tedious process, but I think when we cooperate with the dog groups, the equine groups and the special groups ... we can definitely make these things happen for the community,” she said.

Paul Miller cited a 2006 survey published by the American Veterinary Medical Association that 37.2 percent of all households owned a dog, an increase of 13.8 percent from 2001.

With about 55,000 households in the county, that would mean a little more than 20,000 homes have one or more canines, Miller said.

Currently, residents have to travel outside of the county — to places like Frederick, Waynesboro, Pa., or Chambersburg, Pa. — to visit an open dog park, which is inconvenient and loses the county money, several people said at the meeting.

Pat Miller, owner of a dog-training facility in Fairplay, said off-leash parks are valuable because a vast majority of dogs are underexercised, which makes them “significantly more likely to have behavioral problems.”

“The one constant in almost every behavior-modification protocol that I prescribe to my clients is more exercise,” she said.

Paul Miller said supporters previously had gone before Hagerstown officials with ideas of building a dog park, but were met with resistance because “everybody has a backyard.”

But open space dog parks give animals a chance to interact with one another, burn off excess energy and get acclimated to being around other dogs and people, he said.

“A tired dog is a great dog,” Miller said. “They learn from other dogs. They’re better behaved. We have so many problems in this county with dogs that aren’t socialized with other dogs.”

Baker said proposed changes to the plan will go to a public hearing and then to the Washington County Board of Commissioners for target approval by July 1.

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