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Iowa City close to legalizing dogs in Ped Mall

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | NOVEMBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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After painted benches and sweaters for trees, the Pedestrian Mall might see yet another addition to its vibrant environment — dogs.

The Iowa City City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow leashed dogs on the Ped Mall as long as their leash is less than 6 feet in length, according to city documents. Dogs would not, however, be allowed within 15 feet of the playground equipment, tethered to public or private property, or be near a sidewalk café, outdoor service area, or a limestone planter.

The city code currently bans dogs from the Ped Mall, a ban that has been in effect since 1978.

The new ordinance initially came in as a request from the Iowa City Downtown District a couple of months ago. It also calls for an amendment to the city code to allow dogs to be off leash in all dog parks in the city.

The City Council voted in favor of the law during the first of three votes on Nov. 13. Councilors will vote on the second consideration at their meeting on Tuesday.

However, some are concerned about how well city officials would enforce the law.

City Councilor Susan Mims is confident the ordinance will be passed.

“One of the things that came up in [the Downtown District’s] meeting was that more and more people in our culture tend to take their dogs out with them a lot,” she said, talking about the origin of the ordinance. “So if they are out and about, they are not prevented from going into the Ped Mall simply because they have their dog with them.”

She noted that many other cities are more dog-friendly than Iowa City and allow dogs in their downtowns.

Business owners on the Ped Mall seem to have mixed opinions about the ordinance.

Jain said while she is personally scared of dogs, she doesn’t see any problem with dogs being allowed on the Ped Mall.

“I think dog owners are very responsible,” she said. “I don’t think we are going to have to worry about dogs running loose or things getting ruined. I am OK with them as long as they are on a leash and the owners have control of them.”

Matthew Theobald. a co-owner and manager of the Soap Opera, 119 E. College St., had a slightly different opinion.

“We already have a situation where dogs are on the Ped Mall anyway; [the current law] is not enforced,” he said. “So it is silly to have a new law in the books that you don’t enforce.”

Theobald stressed that the enforcement of clean up will be a huge factor in whether he ends up liking the new law.

“I don’t want to see dogs urinating in flower beds, because that does damage flower beds in the long term,” he said. “So I would like to see some sort of responsible ownership.”    

Mims said while she believes the Downtown District and owners will become proactive in keeping the Ped Mall clean; in case cleanliness issues arise, the law could be re-evaluated.

For UI junior Fahad Alawadhi, the ordinance would make it possible for him to take his husky through the Ped Mall — something he has long desired since he said he practically lives on the Ped Mall.

“This would make it a lot easier for people to walk with their dogs,” he said. “A lot of people like me just want to sit in the Ped Mall and eat a portion of yogurt maybe; and now we can do that with our dogs, since they want to go out too.”     


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