Tuesday, Sept. 3, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
For quite some time now a group of western Las Vegans has watched as its taxes paid for in-line skating paths, baseball diamonds and acres of grass for the community to play on.
None dispute the value of these amenities.
But these citizens feel they've been left out.
Playtime, in this group's eyes, will never include roller skates or baseball bats. Instead, it's games of frisbee, fetch and tail-wagging fun in the park -- but local law says leash-less dogs aren't allowed.
Hoping to strike a compromise, this group of about a dozen canine supporters has banded together as D.O.G. Action Group in a campaign to get an enclosed dog "free play" area within the new 270-acre Desert Breeze Park being developed off Durango Drive and Twain Avenue.
It's a reasonable request, say county officials, considering that only 30 acres so far have been developed at the southwest valley site.
The only problem is money.
"My personal opinion is that there should be a dog component in every park so that dog owners and their pets can have a place to go without encroaching on picnickers or other people in the park," said Sam Gutierrez, assistant director of the county's Parks and Recreation Department.
"But we're all in a line, hoping for funding. All we can do is submit a request. ... If something else comes before us that needs county money -- social services, police, fire -- then we have to just wait."
Soccer fields, baseball diamonds, picnic areas and a bathroom area are already in use at Desert Breeze. A zoo, a community center, an amphitheater and other sports facilities dot the list of possibilities for the remaining 240 acres.
Yet three, maybe five, acres is all a dog park would take, says animal advocate Marley Days Campbell. A local park ranger -- and a cat lover -- has even drawn up plans, keeping cost at a minimum, for a $20,000 series of dog runs and pens for the big- and little-pawed.
"If it means we've got to find people to donate fencing and sod, we'll do it," Campbell said, stroking the neck of her Belgian shepherd, Harry.
Once a week, Campbell's well-mannered dog pads her way through hospitals and convalescent homes as an increasingly popular method of therapy for reducing stress.
"Dogs that are stuck in a yard all day and given no attention except a walk on a leash become frustrated and unhealthy," she said. "If society is going to expect that they be well mannered and social, we have to give them a place where they can freely interact and play with other dogs and other people."
Dog Fanciers Park on East Flamingo Road remains the first and only local recreation area opened specifically for canines, complete with fenced-in areas allowing owners to train and play with their pets. Yet D.O.G. Action Group members say the park is now dominated by dog classes and events.
"When people want parks for their kids, the officials listen, but when we ask for a park for our dogs, it's like dogs don't matter," said Renee Hirsch.
Hirsch's chocolate Lab, B.J., is her husband's hearing aid dog. B.J. joins her on campaigns in front of local pet supply stores, where she and fellow D.O.G. members have gained more than 600 signatures on a petition for the dog park.
The county is about to begin its search for consultants who can best design the next phase of Desert Breeze development, of which a dog component will be considered, Gutierrez said.
The county will seek out the most qualified consultant who can provide the most economically feasible plan. The plan must receive County Commission approval.
Gutierrez said the county would not build an enclosed dog park on less than three acres.
"Cost is a factor, though," he said. "At least 75 percent of our cost is underground -- irrigation, pipes, wiring, clocks. And we already have a manpower shortage. We have everyone calling us, wanting their own spot in the park for archery, airplanes, boating, remote control cars. It always helps to have someone committed to volunteering or training or donating money."
Gutierrez suggested that those in favor of a dog play area at Desert Breeze submit letters of support to Glenn Trowbridge, director of county parks and recreation, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway, fifth floor, Las Vegas, NV 89155.