Drake Field dog lovers dismayed over ordinance change

A large crowd showed up Thursday night in Peachtree City to voice their opposition to a change in the ordinance at Drake Field being changed to only allow animals on leashes at the park. (Staff Photo by John Thompson)

Dog lovers in Peachtree City packed the City Council Chambers Jan. 17 to voice their opposition to controlling their animals by leash only, but many left disappointed after the City Council unanimously agreed to change the ordinance removing voice control from visits to Drake Field.

City Manager Jon Rorie started off the conversation by saying he knew this was an emotional issue for many, including himself.

In 2007, Rorie acquired a dog as a companion for his autistic son.

“Scarlett is truly part of my family,” he said.

In 2012, there was a dog bite at Drake Field. Staff told the City Council that from 2012 to present, the police department has received seven calls via 911 for issues with dogs at Drake Field.

In the fall of 2018, a city contractor, seeing a large, off-leash pit bull/mastiff-type dog ignoring voice commands while running toward him, climbed onto the roof of the storage building to avoid possible attack. Complaints about unleashed dogs at Drake increased in December 2018, coming from dog owners whose dogs are not trained for voice command and are kept on-leash but bothered by uncontrolled, unleashed dogs.

Staff said non-dog owners also complained and said they wanted to enjoy the park, but were unable to do so due to uncontrolled, unleashed dogs bothering them. On Dec. 27, a park user was bitten by an uncontrolled, unleashed dog on December 27.

“I didn’t act before, but I have to act now,” Rorie said.

He recommended changing the ordinance to allow only dogs on leashes to be allowed at Drake Field. Rorie said he also had received a letter from 12 local veterinarians recommending elimination of voice control for dogs because of safety concerns.

Seventeen people lined up to speak, with the vast majority opposing the recommendation.

“We’re just asking for 1/100th of the parkland in Peachtree City,” said Greg King.

He rejected the idea that dog owners should go to the existing dog park because of problems at the park, including being overcrowded and residents bringing more aggressive dogs to the dog park.

Jordan McBride, who grew up in Peachtree City, said Drake Field is a big part of his family, and urged the City Council not to change the ordinance.

One of the voices in support of changing the ordinance to eliminate voice control was Lynne Lasher.

“Drake was never meant to be a dog park,” she said.

In the end, the City Council unanimously voted to change the ordinance, and left many residents muttering frustrations as they left the council chambers.

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