MARCO ISLAND — Stacy Needles said she’s heard it from clients. Some breeds at Mackle Park’s Canine Cove have mean streaks. In one incident, a pet dog was bitten and injured by a Rottweiler, she said.
Marco Island’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee discussed dog park complaints during its Tuesday meeting. Alex Galiana, recreation supervisor, led the discussion.
Of the 30 to 50 dogs that use the park per day, Galiana said he receives only one or two complaints in each two-week period.
“The chairman of City Council is there every day,” he said, “and he says it works pretty well.”
Galiana checked with other dog parks in Collier and Lee counties to see if they have aggressive dog policies. None of them do, he said. Naples attempted to identify dogs using its park and has been successful in registering 1,800. However, park personnel told Galiana it was a colossal mistake and a nightmare for staff.
The committee agreed the two parks in Canine Cove, one for smaller and one for larger breeds, needed to be policed by owners. But owners have different expectations of how they want their dogs to behave, said Bryan Milk, city community affairs director.
“Aggressive dogs usually have aggressive owners,” he said. Calling the Marco Island Police Department when incidents occur helps reduce conflicts, he said.
Committee members felt any policy restricting dogs for unwelcome behavior or by breed was too subjective. The park’s rules spoke for themselves, they felt, and owners should decide if their dogs are too aggressive to play well with others.
Rules for using Canine Cove state: “Dog owners and handlers are responsible for, and liable with respect to, the actions of their dogs and any damage or injury to person or property caused by them.”
According to the rules, dogs that injure others should be removed and refused re-entry, but Galiana admitted there is no staff policing them. There also is no animal control entity on the island. The police department is the only recourse for injured parties, he said.
Some dog parks require muzzles for breeds such as pit bulls, but committee members felt identifying aggressive dogs or breeds in advance would not be possible.
Where do you draw the line?” one member asked. “Is it when they bite? Is it when they draw blood?”
“If a dog is attacked, it’s up to the owner to come to staff and report it,” said committee member Valerie Simon. “If one dog continuously causes a problem, then staff will get the police department involved and bar the dog from the park.”
Milk said Canine Cove rules were looked at by the city attorney and city manager when they were established, and aggressive dogs were a point of contention. Safeguards were put in place to protect owners and dogs from communicable diseases by requiring dogs to wear collars that display identification with current license tag. No other requirements were as specific.
At Canine Cove on Wednesday, owners of Dylan, a shaggy black and white sheepdog, and Levi, a brown mid-sized mixed breed, watched their dogs play in the large dog park. Both owners said they had nothing but praise for the park and their experiences there.
“I’ve been to a lot of dog parks,” Dylan’s owner said, “and this is the best one I’ve ever seen.” No action was taken to change Canine Cove’s policies or restrict dogs by breed or behavior.
The next Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., April 17, in City Hall’s 1st floor conference room, 50 Bald Eagle Drive.