Two accidents point to dangers of dog parks

Dog parks have sprouted up all over our region, particularly in the District. There, they're the only place dogs can run off a leash.

In D.C.’s dog parks, dogs can go without a leash, run, socialize, and rough-house. Occasionally, they go too far.

Last month, a rescue puppy named Cow was attacked by a bigger, more aggressive dog at the Shaw dog park in Northwest. “The dog had her on her back and she tore her ear in half,” said Aaron Hoffmeyer, Cow's owner. "It was a bloody experience."

Days earlier, at the S Street dog park just blocks away, a little dog named Dolce was accidentally trampled by two larger dogs, and had to be put down.

“There were two dogs playing and they were running and they run over her by accident,” said Diego Cifuentes, who owned Dolce.

“They need to have better rules and they need to follow the rules,” he said.

There are rules posted at every D.C. dog park, the trouble is, they're not always followed. “People either don't know the rules, or they know the rules and they feel like it's ok -- all the dogs are getting along,” said Julie Pock.

Pock sits on the board that manages the S Street dog park, where Dolce was killed. While that tragedy was an accident, she admits dog owners need to take more responsibility. “It's very hard to get people to follow those rules,” she said.

The rules include using balls only during off-hours, or having only 14 dogs in the park at a time. “When it's nice out, I think I've seen 30 or 40 dogs running around here," said dog owner Andrwe Flank.

The Shaw dog park has a separate area for small dogs, but not all parks do. Not all owners pay attention when they should.

"When you're in the dog park, pay attention to your dog and to the other dogs around you,” a dog owner said.

Aaron Hoffmeyer and Diego Cifuentes say they watched their dogs and the accidents still happened. Hoffmeyer says he will never take Cow to a dog park again.