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Dogs CAN be in Oakhill Cemetery

January 10, 2011

01/11/11 The ordinance created by Mayor Mark Senter to prohibit dogs from Oakhill Cemetery was defeated on second reading Monday night.

The ordinance was removed from the table and tendered for consideration on the second reading during the Common Council meeting.

Councilman Wayne Smith said, “I received one letter and a couple of phone calls from people who walk their dogs in the cemetery. I can’t support the ordinance as it is presented tonight.”  Being the Councilman on the south-side of town Smith said that people use the cemetery because it’s a safe place.  He said, “I’d hate to see a couple of bad apples ruin everything for a few people who aren’t responsible.”

Councilman Don Gardner said, “The cemetery is a place to pay respects to people we have lost.  A cemetery is not a park. A cemetery is not a place for a dog on a leash or not.”

Councilman Mike Delp explained that he has lived across from Oakhill Cemetery for 20 years and he has loved ones buried in the cemetery.  He said his wife had cared for the graves and have never experienced an issue with dog droppings while tending to the graves.  Delp also contacted Randy Danielson from one of the local funeral homes.  Danielson told him that he has only had one issue with stepping in doggie droppings in all his years.  Mike Delp said he wasn’t in favor of the ordinance in its current form and suggested allowing leased dogs with signs that require pet owners to pick-up after the dogs.

Councilman Chuck Ripley said he couldn’t support taking dogs completely out of the cemetery.  He was also in favor of a leash requirement along with clean-up after.  He did note that in the City’s General Regulations there is a leash law already in place.  Currently it states that the Chief of Police is responsible for enforcement.

Councilman Mark Neidig said, “I emphasize with the people on the south end of town.  I have two labs and there really is no safe place to walk your dog but I wouldn’t take them in the cemetery.”  He said he wasn’t in favor of an ordinance that is created to address a few people.  Neidig said, “I can’t support the ordinance as it sets currently.”

A couple of citizens spoke in favor of the ordinance.  Wilson Jarred said his family purchased their first family plot in 1939 and at that time the cemetery didn’t allow dogs.    He also presented picture of proof of dogs in the cemetery.  Jarrard said, “Those in the cemetery deserve as much respect that ballplayers in the park get with signs posting no dogs in the ball field.”

Bill Watson said …. “The cemetery is hallowed ground for our loved ones, war heroes and firemen.”  He said, “I started going to the cemetery in 1962.  There were only a few people in the cemetery.  I’ve noticed over the last 10 years a bid change.  It’s now a place of recreation for some of our citizens.”  He continued by saying, “I’d like to see it return to a place of reverence.”  He noted that he has seen go-carts, mini-bikes and dogs in the cemetery…and closed by saying, “there may become a time we’ll need to fence the area in.”

Kevin Huff lives on South Michigan Street and walks his dog daily.  Sometimes he walks in the park but always carries a plastic bag to pick up after his pet.  He said, “Man’s best friend but man is our worst enemy.”  He said, “We are at a disadvantage on the south end of town…there is a need for the creation of a dog park.”

Susan Huff also spoke against the current ordinance and said, “Since I was five years I’ve walked a dog in the cemetery.  This is a people problem.”  She suggested enforcement of the city ordinance to require people to keep their dogs on a leash and making the law enforceable with some teeth in it.”

The City Council voted 4 to 1 to deny the current ordinance.  Don Gardner was the only council member to support the Mayors ordinance as presented.

Mayor Mark will look into reworking the ordinance.  He said he would consider making it a leash law with pick-up after pets required.  He also said he may look into a city wide ordinance.

Mayor Mark will be the guest on today’s What’s Your Opinion Show at 9:45 a.m.

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