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Messy dogs may get booted

In Indian Rocks Beach, a popular ball field has turned into a minefield of droppings. But a proposed solution has left both sides howling.

By ERIC STIRGUS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- Eddie Bie thinks his city is going to the dogs.

More specifically, the Little League baseball field where Bie and his two young daughters frequently play catch.

Three weeks ago, Bie took his children to Campalong Field, a block away from City Hall.

"The field was covered in dog droppings," said Bie, 38.

City Manager Tom Brobeil has a solution: spend nearly $7,000 on a dog park at the Indian Rocks Nature Preserve, where the pets can run free.

The issue has divided this city.

Bie thinks Brobeil has a good idea that doesn't go far enough. Bie and about 45 others have signed a petition arguing dogs should be banned from Campalong Field. They fear not only stepping into dog poop, but the possibility their children might be bitten by an unleashed dog.

Dog owners think they have a right to use the ball field. It is the largest fenced area of green space in the city. Its location also makes it a prime meeting place for residents.

Caught in the middle of this dispute are city commissioners, who will discuss and possibly vote on Brobeil's recommendation at a City Commission meeting Tuesday.

The nature preserve is about a half-mile south of the field. Mayor Bob DiNicola is not sure residents who live near the field will drive to the preserve to walk their dogs.

"Are people going to drive to walk their dogs? I don't know," he said.

Hank Albarelli Jr. thinks he should be able to continue to walk his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Cali, on the field.

"The field lends itself to both sides," said Albarelli, who wrote a letter to Brobeil last month defending himself and other dog owners. "It is not necessary to spend several thousand dollars on a facility that may not be used at all."

In recent years, local governments have turned to creating dog parks as a place where canines can run leash-free. According to Dogpark.com, a San Rafael, Calif.-based Web site dedicated to extolling the virtues of dog parks, there are 419 such parks in the United States.

Bie insists he is not a dog hater. He is the proud owner of Chelsea, a 50-pound poodle.

But Bie does not walk his dog in the park. He likes the city manager's idea.

"I would rather them have their own place to go instead of the ball field," he said.

The issue has stirred emotions on both sides. Outraged dog owners have sent letters to the city, stating their case as responsible people who clean up after their pets.

But DiNicola remembers one woman recently came to his home, armed with her son's shoe that was soiled with dog feces.

DiNicola has mixed feelings about the city manager's plan.

"I think it is a great idea. But I don't know where to put it," he said.

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