A CAUTIONARY TAIL

Ken Hoffman warns of the dangers in Houston dog parks

Photo by Jacob Power

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

My dog, Sally, is never going to a public dog park again. I've always had my concerns about dog parks, like aggressive dogs, potential bacteria and disease, and unsupervised activity.

But, I thought, I've heard good things about Officer Lucy Dog Park in Bellaire. Let's see if Sally has fun there. I adopted Sally last New Year's Eve. She's grown into the sweetest, gentlest, most adorable dog I've ever owned.

She's also grown into one of the biggest dogs I've ever owned. It didn't say that on the card on her cage at the shelter.
Here's what happened: I brought Sally to the dog park around 8 am last Thursday. There was a guy in there with three dogs. I asked him, "Are your dogs safe?" He said, "Yeah."As we walked along the fence toward the entrance, I noticed one of his dogs defecating. The guy made no effort to pick it up. I told him, "Hey…"

He said, "I got it, worry about your own dog." He looked annoyed that I called him out about his dog pooping.

Attack at the park

That was a bad sign and I should have turned around right there. The moment we entered the gate, his three dogs attacked Sally. It happened in an instant and it was a frightening, horrible scene. They had Sally pinned down. They were snarling and one was going after her neck. Sally was screaming, a sound I had never heard her make.

This was for real. It wasn't playing, dogs sniffing each other out. These dogs were hurting my amazing dog. I'll never forget the awful sound of growling and barking and crying.

Ken to the rescue

I jumped in the middle and kicked the dog going for Sally's neck as hard as I could. I yelled "Get off!" and "Do something" to the other dog's owner. He just stood there.

I grabbed Sally and slammed the gate behind. The other dogs were hurling themselves at the fence, still trying to get at Sally. The moment we were safe, here's my admission, I went into a rage hollering at the other dogs' owner. He never said sorry, just that, "...two of my dogs are in heat."

That took a terrible situation to 11. I unleashed a torrent of profanity. The guy didn't back off. He told me to F-off, and how about this, "I was here first. If you don't like it, don't bring your dog in here."

That made me 1,000 times angrier. There is a list of rules on the gate at Officer Lucy Dog Park. No vicious dogs, no dogs in heat, on and on. The problem — and this was my original concern about public dog parks — you can have all the rules you want, but if you don't enforce the rules, you have no rules.

I was furious. You never know how you're going to react in a situation, but if his dogs had killed Sally, I would have spent last Thursday night in jail. People dump on me all day long — get in line — but it you can't hurt my dog.

Continue on CultureMap to read what happened when Ken Hoffman called the police.


A CAUTIONARY TAIL, PART 2

Readers respond to Ken Hoffman's dog park debacle

Photo by Jacob Power

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about my dog Sally being attacked by three dogs (one owner) at Officer Lucy Dog Park in Bellaire. Admittedly, I was furious when I wrote the column. I am still furious. Despite a big sign with a long list of safety rules, this one person was allowed to bring his three big, violent dogs into that dog park. I managed to get my dog (and me) out of the park safely.

During our ensuing shouting, the owner of the other dogs told me, "I was here first" and "If you don't like it, don't bring your dog in here." The owner was right about one thing. I didn't like it, and I won't bring my dog there.

In fact, I won't bring my dog to any public dog park where there is no supervision, no assurance that vicious and sick dogs aren't present. It's just not worth the risk.

Dog park danger

It turns out, I did the smart thing. I did not confront the other dog owner. I called the Bellaire cops. Three officers, plus the city's animal control officer, arrived within 10 minutes. They talked to the owner of the vicious dogs, and he left. The police now have a report with information about this person and his dogs.

In Texas, if a dog harms another dog, the owner could be responsible for the vet bills resulting from his dog attacking another dog. If the owner's dog kills another dog, the owner could be responsible for replacing the dead dog. Yeah, that would make everything okay. Your dog killed my dog, my best friend, the dog I loved like there's no tomorrow … but you're going to give me $50 to get another one?

If that owner's dogs had killed Sally that day, I would have spent that night in jail.

Readers respond

Reader reaction to my column surprised me. I understand that people are passionate about their dogs (nobody more than me) and dog parks are popular. I expected to hear strong defenses of dog parks. That was not the case. Here are some of the responses I received.

  • "My dog also got attacked at the gate of Officer Lucy Dog Park; a pit bull grabbed him by the throat, tearing the skin and requiring stitches."
  • "At the very least, they'll get loaded with fleas."
  • "My dog was attacked twice at a dog park. I was frightened my dog would get killed. No more."
  • "Dog parks harbor disease, excrement, vicious dogs, and a-hole owners. We would never take our sweet girl to one."
  • "I think they are great. I wish people would bring their dogs there and not to restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and other places that are intended for humans."
  • "We used to go to dog parks all the time, but then our dog was attacked. I overheard the owner say after we pulled his dog off mine, 'He always does this.' My dog ended up with a $800 medical bill."
  • "Do not confront the bad dog owner — you and your dog could wind up sharing a hospital room."
  • "Come to Eadog Park. We are all a family and are familiar with everyone's dog. If anyone's dog acts up, we ask them to kindly leave. We don't tolerate that behavior."

Continue on CultureMap to read about the aftermath.


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