Opening of dog park is delayed

File/Staff
Jerry Brigham: Official was concerned about health risks that can come with giving dogs free rein inside the park.

Plans to let the dogs out in Augusta's Botanical Gardens on Sunday afternoons will be delayed a few weeks while city officials lay down the law on dog park rules.

An Augusta Commission committee approved the first reading of an amendment to the county code Monday that will require the owners or handlers of dogs who visit the park to sign a waiver agreeing to abide by 26 dog park rules.

Anyone who violates them could be kicked out and charged with a misdemeanor.

The full Augusta Commission also must approve the first reading at the March 4 meeting and the second reading at the March 18 meeting.

Currently, the law requires all dogs in parks and any other public place in Richmond County to be on leashes. The amended law will allow them to romp freely, along with the general public, inside the gates of the Botanical Gardens from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

City Recreation Director Tom Beck said dog parks are popular across the country and he has had a "tremendous" number of requests for the city to create one.

Committee Chairman Jerry Brigham asked whether there were health risks associated with having dogs in the park. Mr. Beck said that owners would be required to clean up after their pets and that the park would have two pet stations.

"I would not think there were any more health risks at the Botanical Gardens than at other parks," Mr. Beck said.

Richmond County Animal Control Director Diane Downs said any animal that showed aggression would be removed by the owner.

At Mr. Brigham's request, Mike Allison, environmental engineer with the Richmond County Health Department, spoke about health risks associated with dogs, the main ones being rabies and worms.

Dogs must have current rabies vaccinations and wear tags. Handlers must be at least 18 years old, and anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

All breeds of dogs will be allowed in the park.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver urged the committee to approve the dog park.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.