Pharr considers banning dogs from city athletic events
Monitor Staff Writer
PHARR â€” Dogs offer companionship to millions of adults and children worldwide. Just donâ€™t bring them to a soccer game.
An ordinance under consideration by the Pharr City Commission would ban pet owners from bringing their dogs to any organized athletic event on city property. The proposed measure follows an incident at a youth soccer game last month in which a small child was bitten by a dog. Similar bans are already in place in cities across Texas.
In a game at Jones Box Park in south Pharr on Dec. 12, Rene Ramirez Jr., 9, chased a ball kicked out of bounds into the crowd of parents standing at the sideline. One of the parents had the family dog, a German shepherd, leashed at his side, and when Rene ran over to pick up the ball, the dog bit him, leaving a bleeding puncture wound under his left eye.
"The dog seemed to be OK before that, but as my son was leaning over the dog kind of snapped at him," said Rene Ramirez, the boyâ€™s father and a local attorney.
"We took him to the hospital. Heâ€™s got some scarring, but thank God thereâ€™s no damage to the eye. His eye was black and blue for a few weeks."
Shortly after the incident, Ramirez stopped by City Hall to talk and found a group of officials more than willing to do something.
Over the last 12 months, Pharr built its first new park in 20 years, spent $500,000 fixing up another and made plans for the addition of tens of acres of new park space in coming years. More people are jogging on the trails or participating in sports leagues than ever, but with the parksâ€™ popularity have come some complaints, parks director Frank Marin said.
"Since weâ€™ve finished up these parks, weâ€™ve had more complaints about people walking around with pit bulls and rottweilers. Those are the dogs that really scare people," he said.
"Theyâ€™d be hanging around games, but there wasnâ€™t a whole lot we could do because they were on a leash. Then we had this incident and we wanted to make sure this never happened again."
Thickset and muscular with large heads and powerful jaws, pit bulls and rottweilers seem to routinely end up in the news for child maulings. But neither breed, nor any dog breed for that matter, is inherently aggressive, said Jamie Graybeal, director of community outreach for the Upper Valley Humane Society.
"Because of their body makeup they are going to do more damage if they do attack. But theyâ€™re not any more likely to attack; itâ€™s a stereotype," she said.
"Any dog can turn aggressive if itâ€™s provoked or someoneâ€™s entered their territory. Itâ€™s more to do with how the dog is treated. Dogs that are left tied up on chains have that pent-up anxiety."
Graybeal declined to offer an opinion when asked if she supported a law banning dogs from sporting events. But she did say large crowds can provide too much excitement for dogs that are not properly trained, sometimes resulting in incidents like that of Dec. 12.
One month after the attack, 9-year-old Rene remains wary around unfamiliar dogs. He happily rolls around with the schnauzer, Yorkshire terrier and two Labradors his family owns, but dogs he doesnâ€™t know are a different matter.
"We were out walking the other day, and we saw a dog coming up and we both freaked," his father said.
"I told him to stay away and the dog just walked by. There is some caution on his part to stay away from dogs he doesnâ€™t know. But Iâ€™m probably more worried. Heâ€™s young."
James Osborne covers PSJA and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4428. For this and other local stories visit http://www.themonitor.com.
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