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There’s never been a shortage of beleaguered groups in the District of Columbia. Welfare recipients, home rule champions, and schoolchildren, for example, are all taking a beating from the powers that be. But on the footpaths and parks around Adams Morgan, a new group is vying for doghouse status.
“It’s just really escalated, this anti-dog sentiment,” laments dog-walking entrepreneur Nialle Condensa. Earlier this summer, Condensa helped rally dog owners in her neighborhood to form the Kalorama/Adams Morgan Dog Owners Association (KADO). The goal is nothing short of complete political rehabilitation of dog owners and walkers around densely populated Adams Morgan.
Since early spring, KADO members have met a battery of resident complaints, hastily erected fences, and $50 fines for leash-law violations. Non-dog owning locals, it seems, have grown tired of having their sandwiches snatched from picnic benches and being awoken to the sight and sensation of slobbering dogs on neighborhood park grounds.
“We have got publicize to the general population that we are active, we’re productive, we contribute,” says KADO co-founder Joe Murnan at a KADO meeting last Thursday night at Allen’s Playground, a part of Rock Creek Park. “By doing this they see that the dog owners in fact don’t just leave dog poop everywhere.”
The general population, though, is skeptical. “The people that call about the dogs off the leash call constantly,” said U.S. Park Police Sgt. John Dewey at the KADO outing. (Dewey reports that one of the neighborhood’s anti-dog people tipped him off to the KADO meeting on the hunch that dogs would be on the loose.) “They drive us nuts. And they have a legitimate complaint, because dogs off the leash is against the law.”
In fact, he tells the KADO throng that lawless dog running is “probably my second biggest problem,” just behind Asbury Park on 16th Street, with its “homeless people…drinking and carrying on.”
And it appears the authorities are doing a better job of cracking down on rogue canines than drunks. “There’s been at least five incidents of people getting [leash law] tickets in various parks,” says Condensa. “And when we got kicked out of this park, there was a lot more dog traffic in the other park, so then people started getting frustrated [there]. It’s just getting like a circle and it’s affecting all of us.”
In an exhortation to KADO members gathered at Allen’s Playground, Murnan urges, “If you feel like you’re being unduly harassed, get the name and the badge number.” As proof that he means business, Murnan distributes KADO’s inaugural newsletter as a Jack Russell tries to use his leg as a hydrant.
The newsletter’s mission statement touts open roaming as the “key to reducing canine aggression, improving socialization, and teaching proper behavior with children and other strangers.”
According to Condensa, over 100 neighborhood pooch owners now receive KADO’s nuggets of clinical canine wisdom. And tonight’s show of force at Allen’s Playground produces a representative sampling. KADO member Maya Peretz, for instance, fashions herself as KADO’s answer to Rosa Parks. Peretz got busted a few summers back for letting wolf-size Tito splash around in a Meridian Hill Park fountain to beat the 100-degree heat. “The policeman who handcuffed me handed my dog to a local drug addict to hold,” she recalls bitterly.
In addition to fighting what they view as police intolerance, KADO boosters are struggling to reposition themselves in the public eye. Murnan boasts of KADO’s work at Walter Pierce Park off Adams Mill Road NW. “We’ve bought two trash cans, we painted them, and whatnot,” reports Murnan. “We’re doing stuff that’s simple, not expensive, not time-consumingthings that will benefit the park.” Member Randy Wood chimes in, saying, “I’ve already made up stickers that say, ‘This trash picked up by a member of KADO.’”
A few minutes later, black Lab Coby breaks away from his owner untethered. Frenzied pursuit by fellow canines ensues. As the dogs mill about, heightening their social adaptability with every trot, a KADO member shouts in mock horror, “There’s a dog off the leash!” Dewey has already left, so no one makes an effort to catch them. CP