Downtown for the Dogs
With spring just around the corner, more and more people are venturing outside to enjoy some fresh air after the long winter months. If you’re a dog owner, that certainly means more opportunities to spend time outdoors with your four-legged friend.
According to the Humane Society, 39% of United States households own a dog, with over 78 million pet dogs in the US, and in Canada there are over 4 million pet dogs. With the rise in popularity of off-leash dog parks and other amenities for dog owners, adding a furry member to the family has never been easier. And one of the top activities of local residents as well as visitors is going for a nice walk with their dog.
Yet we’ve heard of some downtowns contemplating ordinances banning dogs from downtown districts. On the surface, this may not sound too unreasonable. After all, dogs can be noisy and irresponsible pet owners can leave a mess in their wake. So should downtowns ban dogs?
We say, absolutely not. A thriving, successful downtown is a community, not just a set of streets and buildings. A vibrant downtown thrives because of its people; the community who live, work and spend time there. Banning dogs from any community is a bad idea. Dog owners typically consider their dogs to be a member of the family, and they would see such an ordinance as an insult, akin to saying “no kids downtown.” It simply doesn’t make sense.
A great downtown, where people want to spend time, should be alive with activity. People walking their dogs down the sidewalks is a natural part of that. We actually encourage downtown merchants to put out watering bowls for dogs along with tie-up posts so dog owners have a safe and comfortable spot to leave their dog while they come inside to shop. We also work with cities around the world in putting up posts with doggie bags on them. They are inexpensive and the vast majority of dog owners will use them if they are available.
It is prudent to have enforcement codes for pet cleanup (in many cities, pet owners can be fined as much as $200 for failing to clean up after their pet), as well as leash-laws. If a dog is a threat to public safety, they can be asked to leave immediately. But with those parameters, dogs should be allowed in downtown districts.
A successful downtown is one in which people feel at home and welcome; a place where people want to spend time. Remember, if locals don’t hang out downtown, visitors won’t either. So we recommend letting our four-legged furry friends be a part of the downtown community.