City gives doggy treat to pet owners

Dogs will be allowed in 4 Shawano parks

Canada geese might be causing headaches for the city, but Shawano’s canine residents can thank the problematic bird population for finally allowing them access to four of the city’s parks.

What was initially intended as part of a harassment plan to frighten away geese at Smalley Park and Huckleberry Harbor blossomed into putting out the welcome mat for dogs at not only those two locations, but Kuckuk and Sturgeon parks as well.

The Shawano Common Council unanimously approved an ordinance change Wednesday allowing dogs in those parks, provided they are kept on a visible leash no more than 6 feet long. Also, dog owners will be responsible for cleaning up after the animals.

“I encourage all dog owners to clean up after their dogs so this is not an ordinance we have to rescind at a later date,” Alderman Bob Kurkiewicz said. “The ball’s in their court now to clean up after their pets.”

Park and Recreation Director Matt Hendricks said the words “visible leash” were recommended to discourage the use of shock collars or other technology that gives dog owners control over their animals but still lets them run at large.

He also said that, in theory, a dog owner could be fined if a retractable leash is extended for more than six feet.

A large population of Canada geese has been an ongoing seasonal problem for Smalley Park and Huckleberry Harbor, with hundreds of birds congregating at those sites and leaving behind one to two pounds of feces per bird each day.

The Shawano Park and Recreation Commission in April abandoned a plan to round up and euthanize the geese after strong community opposition.

The commission instead opted for a non-lethal harassment plan to drive the geese away, including allowing dogs in hopes they will scare the geese away.

Though the geese problem has been limited to Smalley Park and Huckleberry Harbor, Kuckuk and Sturgeon parks were included in the discussion because of their nature as walking parks and because there has been public demand to allow dogs.

In another move aimed at discouraging geese, the council also amended city ordinances to prohibit park visitors from feeding the birds or other wildlife.

Alderwoman Rhonda Strebel thanked the park and recreation commission for compromising and allowing dogs in four of the city’s parks.

“I know this has been discussed by the council. I’ve brought it up every year for the last five or six years I’ve been on the council,” she said.

“Many people, including myself, have walked our dogs around the park,” Strebel said. “There’s some nice areas for walking, and we don’t have a dog park.”

Dog owners will want to hold off a few days, however, before grabbing the leash and heading out to the park with their pets.

The change is not effective until notice is published in the newspaper, which is expected to happen within the next week.