Trouble in Paradise? Tips from Friends of West Mill Creek Park on how to handle dog aggression at the park
If you have an issue with an aggressive dog at the park . . .
- As a first step, try a polite and civil conversation with the owner of the dog you are concerned about. Sometimes a creative solution can be found. For instance, we had one situation that was resolved when the owner agreed to keep the dog muzzled while at the park. Or, if the problem is not severe, the owners could try a mutual agreement to keep on opposite sides of the park, or to visit the park at different times.
- If that does not work, especially if there is an injury to you or your dog, the next step is to notify Lower Merion Animal Control at 610-649-1000. Animal Control will send an officer to take your statement. (Note: The Lower Merion Department of Parks & Recreation administers the Off Leash Permit program, but they cannot take action absent a police report.)
- After you have given a statement to the police, you can proceed to notify Donna Heller, Director of the L.M. Department of Parks & Recreation, at firstname.lastname@example.org , or (610) 645-6220. Parks & Rec will review the situation and, if circumstances warrant, may revoke the off leash permit of the offending dog.
- In all cases where there has been an injury to a person or dog, it is a good idea to document that with photos and/or a visit to the doctor or vet (as the case may be).
If you are the owner of a dog that may have injured another dog or person at the park . . .
- After the dogs are safely separated, best practice is to contact the other owner, ask whether owner and dog are ok, and where appropriate offer to pay for any damage caused. This can be very hard because both you and the other owner may be upset, but apologies or expressions of concern go a long way to ease tensions and promote a civil atmosphere at the park.
- Just because you have an incident does not mean your dog’s off leash permit can or should be revoked. Accidents happen. But remember . . . NOT ALL DOGS ARE SUITABLE FOR OFF LEASH DOG PARKS. A dog may be a fine dog and a beloved family member, but still not a good candidate for off leash privileges in a public park.
Role of Friends of West Mill Creek Park
To keep our dog park a friendly and welcoming place, concerns about habitually aggressive dogs must be addressed. Our policy is to rely on the police and township to referee disputes over dog aggression.
- Our organization is not trained or equipped to arbitrate disputes among dog park visitors. Our role in this area is strictly limited to providing educational information to help people resolve issues as amicably as possible through the proper channels.
- We cooperate with any inquiries about aggressive dog incidents from the police or the Lower Merion Department of Parks and Recreation.
See also our companion brochure, “Etiquette: 10 Tips for a Great Dog Park Experience,” for some really good general guidelines on avoiding common dog park problems. Copies are usually available in the kiosk, and it is also available under the “Gettin’ Along” tab on our website.