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Sports Plex no longer going to dogs

The Sports Plex is no longer going to the dogs. At least the baseball and softball fields will be dog free after the Demopolis Parks and Recreation Board voted Monday to change a longstanding policy that governed canine attendance at Sports Plex events.

The facility has always allowed for individuals to walk their dogs on its grounds provided the animals were kept on a leash. However, the frequency with which pet owners are taking their furry friends into crowded areas has increased to the point that some citizens have sounded the alarm.

“We have experienced a large increase in dogs coming to the Sports Plex for ball games,” Demopolis Parks and Recreation director Mark Pettus said. “We have a lot of people who are concerned that children may aggravate a dog and get bitten and others fear that the dogs will aggravate each other and start fighting.”

The outcry and the observations of park employees sparked a decision on the part of the board that came to a head Monday.

“The park and rec board’s current policy allows for dogs to be at the Sports Plex if they are on a leash and controlled by the owner,” Pettus said. “(Monday) at our regularly scheduled board meeting, the park and rec board voted to change its policy to state that no dogs will be allowed within the confines of the fences at the Sports Plex during games or events and no dogs will be allowed on the soccer fields during games or events.”

While the policy would seem to indicate that dogs are not welcome at the Sports Plex, Pettus was clear that the animals still have a place on the city’s east side, just not near the competition fields or in densely populated areas.

“The intent of the policy is not to discourage all dogs from accompanying their owners to the park,” Pettus said. “However, most people come to ball games at the Sports Plex to watch a child play ball and the park board feels like parents should be able to do that without fear of a dog fight breaking out behind them. There is plenty of room on the walking trail and open areas at the Sports Plex to exercise dogs without having to bring them into close contact with several hundred strangers during the games.”