Will keeping dogs away make more people come and play — er, spend?
That is the trade-off under consideration in Beaver Falls, a western Pennsylvania city of 10,000. Fox News reports that the area is working to revitalize a stretch of its downtown business district along Seventh Avenue, and the plan may include banning dogs from the newly spruced up blocks.
Beaver County, best known as Joe Namath’s home, has been battered by the recession, according to the Huffington Post. It wants to “draw new business and investors” and is concerned that dogs — or more accurately, dog owners’ behavior — may keep business away.
One concern is that large dogs tied to parking meters “can scare customers,” according to some residents.
A second problem is that “people aren’t cleaning up after their dogs,” as city councilmember John “Chuckie” Kirkland told CBS Pittsburgh. “I tell you I get disgusted.”
City Administrator Steve Johnson explained that, “It’s not that anybody on the council doesn’t like dogs. I like dogs. We certainly don’t want to discourage people from having a dog. It’s just that many dog owners are being irresponsible and ruining things for everybody.”
Other cities have no problem maintaining thriving business districts that welcome dogs; the Huffington Post cited Fifth Avenue in New York City and the Champs Elysees in Paris as examples.
It seems that Beaver Falls may be unnecessarily limiting its options. Other measures it might consider include banning people from tying their dogs up along the revitalized section of Seventh Avenue, launching an awareness campaign about the legal requirement to clean up after dogs, and increasing the penalties for violating these rules.
Elsewhere, people have taken things even further by testing the DNA of abandoned doggie doo to identify scofflaws. According to the Huffington Post, some apartment buildings and condominiums require resident dog owners to “register their pets’ DNA with a lab,” and fine owners whose dogs’ DNA matches piles found on the residential properties.
This particular solution is likely to be too expensive and unwieldy for an entire city to impose, but it illustrates the range of possibilities available short of banning dogs from a neighborhood.
Newspaper and online reports about the Beaver Falls proposal have not mentioned any discussion of a predictable unintended consequence of a canine ban: more unscooped dog leavings on streets adjacent to the regulated zone, and dogs tied to parking meters blocks away from their owners’ destinations. The further the parking meter, the longer the dog must stay tied up alone waiting for his or her person to come back. These problems could depress business at shops and companies away from Seventh Avenue, which obviously would not further Beaver Falls’ overall economic recovery.
The debate is far from over. “Officials are also considering an incentive program for owners to keep their dogs away,” the Huffington Post reports. According to CBS Pittsburgh, Beaver Falls doesn’t plan to make a final decision until later this year.
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