Many evenings, a group of North Bay Village residents and their pets can be found gathered on the school yard behind Treasure Island Elementary School.
Maxine Tayar said she and other dog owners have been using it as an unofficial dog park, but are now pushing for a village-sanctioned park where dogs can run off-leash.
“There’s a lot of dogs and there is no dog park. There is no shaded area and no water fountain for the dogs,” Tayar said, adding that on one occasion she saw 20 to 30 dogs there at once.
Village commissioners on July 8 authorized the village manager to negotiate an agreement with the Miami-Dade School Board to develop part of the school yard into a dog park.
Village Manager Frank Rollason said that school district officials have seemed open to the idea and asked “to send them a drawing of what our proposal is, how we are going to access it and how we are going to maintain it.”
In an interview, a spokesperson for school district said that while the village was asked to present a proposal, it’s policy does not allow animals other than service dogs in school district property.
Rollason said that he is planning to meet with school district officials to explore possible solutions.
He added that regardless of where they build it, there are liability issues that the city and school district will have to explore.
“If a child gets maimed by a dog, parents will say ‘why did you convey the use of a school yard for a dog park?’ Everybody is on the hook,” Rollason said.
He added that the village will have to revisit its insurance to determine whether coverage against dog attacks increases the village’s premium.
“This is taking a facility, saying bring your dogs, turn them loose,” Rollason said. “If some child gets maimed, of course we’re going to get sued. Does the village want to do that?”
Tayar and other residents, however, say that the current situation isn’t feasible.
Andrew Reina, property manager for Eloquence on the Bay, a condominium of 240 residents, said he sees the needs for a dog park among the residents of his building.
“You can tell there is a large growing demographic of people that have pets,” he said.
The building he manages does not border the school yard, but he said that at the moment, the building welcomes dog walkers on strips of green space in front of the building because of the lack of green space in the village.
“It’s just grass. It’s not a park by any means,” Reina said. “And it’s next to a busy street.”
Doris Acosta, resident and president of the Optimist Club of North Bay Village, is also a dog owner and supports the school yard proposal.
“The citizens want a dog park. Unless the city buys a lot, this is the only reasonable option,” Acosta said.
Currently, the yard doesn’t have the amenities of a dog park. According to Tayar, it is also a roaming ground for stray cats, which the dogs chase after.
During the school year, it is used by children during recess, and in the summer, by a children’s soccer league.
Rollason said he is aware of complaints.
“Parents complain about their kids being in dog poop when they play. It’s not locked up usually and nobody is really enforcing it one way or the other.”
School district officials said they are aware of the issue and will work to strengthen enforcement by administrators and security.
“The area will be monitored, and offenders will be dealt with appropriately,” said John Schuster, spokesperson for the school district.
Tayar said that if the school yard proposal is rejected, village officials should pursue other options quickly.
“Most citizens want a dog park and we need to figure out sooner rather than later where and how we're going to build it,” she said.