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Debate Over Dogs at Festivals Begins in St. Charles

Current city law prohibits domesticated animals from Frontier Park during special events, but some say it's unenforceable.

Dogs were among the thousands of attendees of this year's Oktoberfest weekend held in Frontier Park in late September.

Some dogs participated in the weiner dog derby, others were brought by their owners. But under city law, dogs and other domesticated animals are technically barred from the park during special events like festivals. 

Councilman Jerry Reese, Ward-6, wants to abolish the city law because he said it's unenforceable. 

Reese said several people approached him during Oktoberfest to complain about the many dogs in the park, although a large sign is posted saying they are prohibited.

"We're not enforcing it," he said. 

Enforcement of the ordinance is complicated because dogs cannot be limited from being on the Katy Trail, which runs right next to Frontier Park.

Director of Parks and Recreation Maralee Britton said for years they've tried to enforce the law. Park rangers and event volunteers would tell people they can't bring their dogs into the park, and festival goers would often walk further down the trail and then dart into the festival. 

Britton said park officials estimate they saw more than 3,000 dogs during the three-day Oktoberfest weekend. 

"As soon as you escort one out, another comes in," she said. 

Britton said there are many special events held in Frontier Park that include animals, like the Trails for Tails 5k race, the weiner dog derby held during Oktoberfest and sheep at the Scottish and Irish festivals. 

"That in itself is contradictory to the ordinance, but it draws people to their events," Britton said.

If the law is enforced, those events would have to find a new location. Animals are allowed in other parts of the city, like Main Street, during festivals. 

"Why we're separating Frontier Park from any other event that happens in the city, I don't know if it makes a lot of sense," she said. "There's a lot of ordinances already in the books. We can maintain what happens already by the ordinances in place." 

Several council members said they don't think it's appropriate to have dogs in crowded places like festivals. 

"We have some people who don't have enough common sense not to bring their big slobbery dog down to a situation where there's 50,000 people," said Councilman Mike Klinghammer, Ward-8. 

Other council members say they would like to see it enforced. 

"When dogs are in big crowds they get nervous, they get territorial," said Councilwoman Bridget Ohmes, Ward-10. 

Nicole October 17, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I know there is a large dog that spends a lot of time down on main street. The dog does awful in crowds and the owner continues to bring the dog down anyway. I was walking down main street during a festival and the dog almost trampled me to start barking at another dog. If people can't use common sense with their pets, then the city needs to step in for everyone's safety. As a dog owner, I know that my dogs don't do well in large crowds and I leave them at home, some people aren't capable of that and need more guidance through laws.
Carol Tayloe October 17, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I have a problem with dogs in the park at festivals for several reasons. One, their face is usually the same height of toddlers walking and the dog's face is also the same height as children in strollers. I saw two different children in strollers eating, with dogs quite close to them. Not all owners clean up after their dogs. Then as the previous person stated, it's in in the dogs best welfare. With signs, newspapers and TV talking about it, get the word out, NO DOGS and then ticket them, if they bring them. I also wish you could stop the mothers that bring their near, newborns. I have seen them as young as 2 weeks. No easy solution to any of my pet peeves.
ChuckRoast October 17, 2012 at 07:04 PM
As a dog owner I can see both sides of the issue. I guess one issue that isn't mentioned is the pet owners that do not pick up after their pet. The recent Tails for Trails, which I was not a part of but came down as it was ending, was a mess. You would think that folks would understand that their dog will need to use it at some point in the outing and would pick up after thier pet. This was not the case. The area around the park was littered with doggie land mines all over. So through this into the mix. If you can't enforce no dogs at the events (I admit I have taken mine to some) at least enforce the clearing of the doggie land mines by the dog owners.
Kalen Ponche October 17, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I didn't put this in the story, but Maralee Britton said much of what people believe is dog poop is actually geese poop. Britton said they received a complaint about the poop after a recent event and when they investigated, they found it was largely geese feces.
Renee Dale November 07, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I've been asked to remove my Service Dog from the park or refused entry by volunteers, which is a Federal Violation of the Service Animal Law. So, before you go and regulate and enforce the law more, you need to train people on the LAW. And if you say that you can not regulate the Katy Trail, then get the volunteers and the tents which block the Katy Trail off during events, OFF OF THE TRAIL.

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