When the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation released new rules [PDF] for establishing dog parks earlier this month, one provision struck dog lovers as absurd: Before a site can be approved for a dog park, the sponsoring group must get the Department of Health’s certification that the area is rat-free “for a distance of five (5) blocks.”
The rules were written by a task force consisting of several city agencies; according to Parks and Rec spokesperson Regina Williams, the rat rule was included at the behest of the Department of Health. “That was one of the guidelines that they wanted to have,” Williams says.
Now, however, the rule is being called impractical by…the Department of Health.
An agency attorney and rodent-control honcho consulted about the proposal both “agree that it would be nearly impossible for [the health department] to verify that a five-block area was rodent-free,” concedes Peggy Keller, chief of the Bureau of Community Hygiene, in an e-mail.
That bit of common sense comes as no surprise to dog advocates. Mindy Moretti, an Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commissioner and president of Friends of Walter Pierce Park—-which has a designated dog area—-says the rule is poop.
“As that regulation is written, it will be next to impossible to have dog parks anywhere in the District of Columbia, let alone Ward 1,” Moretti says. “Rock Creek Park is full of rats. It’s a city, there’s rats….It’s absolutely impossible.”
Due to the uproar over the new rules, Parks and Rec has extended the public comment period to May 1.