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Some residents want county dog park

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Count beach dog-walkers among those interested in creating a “bark park” in Brunswick County.

Tammie Sowders and Brian Hodge of Little River, S.C., playing in the surf with their dog at Sunset Beach on Monday, said a dog park closer to home is just what is needed.

Soon, Sowders said, seasonal rules that ban dogs from the beach during the day will take effect, and she said a dog-walk park in Myrtle Beach is too far away for them to drive conveniently.

She said they are interested in signing a petition recently launched online endorsing a dog park for Brunswick County. The effort is being orchestrated by Brunswick Area Responsible K-9s (B.A.R.K.), a nonprofit group that promotes responsible pet ownership and provides Meals on Wheels 4 Pets in Brunswick County.

“The club itself has been interested in helping the county formulate and build a dog park,” said Lorretta Pyeatt of B.A.R.K.

The group made a decision this year to donate all proceeds from its annual Strut Your Mutt fundraiser scheduled in the fall in Southport toward a dog-walking park, envisioned in the petition as “a fenced in, off-leash dog park where well-behaved canine citizens can exercise in a clean, safe environment without endangering or annoying people, property or wildlife.”

She is hoping owners of the estimated 20,000 dogs that reside in Brunswick County (based on the 2000 census) will be interested as well.

Pyeatt said the cost of creating such a park is unknown, since fundraising is in the preliminary stages. Plans also have been stymied since former Brunswick County parks and recreation director George Page resigned in April, she said.

She said petition organizers hope to present a plan to the county.

She said there are a lot of different ways a county can have a dog park, by charging fees or making it non-fee.

“It’s really at this point in the planning stage, raising money and raising awareness,” Pyeatt said.

The petition can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/brunscodogpark

Paper petitions also are being distributed in the area, including Pyeatt’s business, Canine Academy on Old Ocean Highway near Brunswick Community College.

“We’re hoping we can either have one very large dog park or two dog parks, because our county is so large we really need to have something that the county doesn’t outgrow,” Pyeatt said.

Right now, park advocates have no particular, proposed sites in mind.

“We’re hoping the county will want to put one in an already existing or planned [site],” Pyeatt said. “We want to work with the county to raise money and get a grant. We would like to let the county use our knowledge and research.”

Dog parks, she said, ideally allow owners to let their dogs off their leashes, which enables dogs to become better socialized with other dogs and people at a dog’s pace.

“Interacting off-leash is very, very healthy for a dog,” she said. “It helps dogs learn how to get along.”

Dogs that have an opportunity to play and exercise off-leash tend to be better behaved, more relaxed and “not be quite as big a nuisance,” Pyeatt said.

When dogs are on-leash, they have more of a tendency to protect their owners and themselves, she said.

A dog park also offers a social place for people, she said.

“It’s just like any other kind of park place where people can go,” Pyeatt said.

A nice dog park, she added, would be equipped with receptacles, night lighting, areas for small and large dogs, shade trees and water stations.

Pyeatt said dog parks also should have gated entrances and exits so dogs cannot slip out. She said the group also hopes to provide educational programs or kiosks for pamphlets and information about spaying and neutering, heartworm, the dangers of putting a pet in a hot car and other canine issues.

“Basically, we’re hoping that with this awareness and raising money, anybody who’s interested can help the county put together a really awesome dog park,” she said.

With an estimated 700 such parks now in the U.S., Pyeatt said they also are attractions and useful facilities for visitors traveling with their dogs.

Dog owners Mark and Vanessa Hughes of Shallotte are among those who would favor a dog park in Brunswick County.

“I think it would be great,” Vanessa Hughes said as they walked their dachshund, Dobby, along the beach and into the surf Monday on Sunset Beach.

Her mother, she added, would love one.

“She would always go there,” Hughes said. “She walks her dogs for miles every day.”