Debate Over Dogs at Festivals Begins in St. Charles
Current city law prohibits domesticated animals from Frontier Park during special events, but some say it's unenforceable.
Dogs were among the thousands of attendees of this year's Oktoberfest weekend held in Frontier Park in late September.
Some dogs participated in the weiner dog derby, others were brought by their owners. But under city law, dogs and other domesticated animals are technically barred from the park during special events like festivals.
Councilman Jerry Reese, Ward-6, wants to abolish the city law because he said it's unenforceable.
Reese said several people approached him during Oktoberfest to complain about the many dogs in the park, although a large sign is posted saying they are prohibited.
"We're not enforcing it," he said.
Enforcement of the ordinance is complicated because dogs cannot be limited from being on the Katy Trail, which runs right next to Frontier Park.
Director of Parks and Recreation Maralee Britton said for years they've tried to enforce the law. Park rangers and event volunteers would tell people they can't bring their dogs into the park, and festival goers would often walk further down the trail and then dart into the festival.
Britton said park officials estimate they saw more than 3,000 dogs during the three-day Oktoberfest weekend.
"As soon as you escort one out, another comes in," she said.
Britton said there are many special events held in Frontier Park that include animals, like the Trails for Tails 5k race, the weiner dog derby held during Oktoberfest and sheep at the Scottish and Irish festivals.
"That in itself is contradictory to the ordinance, but it draws people to their events," Britton said.
If the law is enforced, those events would have to find a new location. Animals are allowed in other parts of the city, like Main Street, during festivals.
"Why we're separating Frontier Park from any other event that happens in the city, I don't know if it makes a lot of sense," she said. "There's a lot of ordinances already in the books. We can maintain what happens already by the ordinances in place."
Several council members said they don't think it's appropriate to have dogs in crowded places like festivals.
"We have some people who don't have enough common sense not to bring their big slobbery dog down to a situation where there's 50,000 people," said Councilman Mike Klinghammer, Ward-8.
Other council members say they would like to see it enforced.
"When dogs are in big crowds they get nervous, they get territorial," said Councilwoman Bridget Ohmes, Ward-10.