“I fear some good dogs could get put down because children are entering dog parks unsupervised.”

by Prince Of Petworth April 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm 75 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

I saw this sign at the LeDroit Park dog park. Almost every evening, unsupervised children come to the dog park to play with the dogs. Generally speaking, the kids are curious and friendly and positive experiences are had. However, I’ve always been worried that a kid might inadvertently get hurt. I was not present with this incident occurred, but the fact that this parent is now looking for the dog owner leads me to believe they were not present when this bite happened, otherwise I’m sure that information would have been exchanged. Some dogs simply don’t like kids, or when dogs are running around someone could get knocked down and hurt. Does the city have rules on this? I fear some good dogs could get put down because children are entering dog parks unsupervised.”

  • General Grant Circle

    Ive known a few rescue dogs who had problems with certain types of people and children (children in baseball caps, light haired people, so forth). It seems reasonable to expect that people supervise both their dogs and their children, you never know

    • ParkViewneighbor

      Question is: do you want to supervise somebody else’s kid when you’re at the dog park supervising your dog?

      • carol

        that is the issue right. The liability is on the dog owner to make sure it does not harm the kid. Dog owners have to assume parents are doing their job. The dogs in my care have always loved kids and I have never been concerned that they would bit a child however at the dog park all the dogs are running around chasing each other. I have almost been knocked over by a dog. THere is nothing a dog owner should have to do to prevent its dog from running into a child at the dog park, dogs are there to run.

        • Adriana

          No, even good dogs treated poorly by a kid could snap. There should be no unsupervised chidren in a dog park.

          • Alan

            If there are no unsupervised dogs, the kids should be fine. Control your dog, period.

          • flieswithhoney

            A supervised dog at an off-lease dog park can still mow you down, regardless of your size by just playing in an appropriate manner. There’s a reason why owners stand around the outside of the park. So while a kid might not get bitten, he still could be pushed over.

    • anon

      I know of some specifically bred dogs who also do not like children. I’m not sure why you call out rescues specifically.

      • ParkViewneighbor

        Some people don’t like kids either ;)

      • General Grant Circle

        Because in my personal experience it has been rescues, including some of my own rescues. It is also not surprising in rescues as many come from abusive homes. Is that that crazy?

      • Anonoline

        And a lot of city dogs don’t have much experience being around children, so their reactions to them are not predicable. I can’t say with certainty that my dog, who has no history of aggressive but is skittish, won’t snap at a kid jabbing a stick at her or pulling her tail.

  • kids + dog parks = terrible idea. As a dog and child parent, it’s a challenge to care for both to best that I can, but I would NEVER bring both to a dog park unless I were desperate and wearing my kid. It makes me cringe when I see people do it.

    • DogMama

      I bring my kids to the dog park with my dog, but I always ask dog owners if their dogs have kid issues. And, I don’t get mad if my kids get knocked over or slobbered on. But, I think unsupervised kids or even supervised toddlers are a big no no. Even if I was there with my kids, I would tell any unsupervised kids that they had to leave, and my current dog is super friendly and gentle. Many years ago, an unsupervised kid start running around with my dog. Kid fell down got up and said my dog bit him and even though there was no bite mark or other sign of a bite. I was terrified about what could happen to my dog. Never let that dog, or any other dog play with unknown kids again.

  • etcetera

    Another parent of both a child and dogs here. I do not bring my child in to a dog park nor do I bring my dogs in to a playground. Please please please never mix the two. It doesn’t matter how “good” your child or dog is. Just don’t do it.

  • ToddlerDogMom

    Zoinks. We have a dog and the toddler never, ever goes to the fenced in, official dog park. Mainly bc our first dog was in fact aggressive (he was one of the ones w/various people phobias, like basically anyone who wasn’t my husband) and through no fault of his own could have eaten a kid. There’s just no way I’d put my kid — or someone else’s dog — in that situation. Plus the dog park is full of pee and poop, and while my kid is often also covered in pee and poop b/c apparently using the potty is the hardest thing in the world, he doesn’t need to be playing in it.

  • Anon

    For those begging parents to leave their kids of dog parks – I highly doubt your message will reach the intended audience (those who allow their children unsupervised access to the dog parks).

    • FridayGirl

      Do you have a suggested solution to this? Or…?

      • Anon

        One obvious solution is to place a sign by the entrance gate, or … ?

      • TJ

        I have both spoken the parent about the risks with what they are doing AND I have left the dog park with my two dogs, who have never bitten anyone or anything but are larger than most children. Just a few days ago, a man brought his child into the holding pen at the entrance to the dog park to watch the dogs. That also isn’t OK.

  • BostonToShaw

    These are ‘dog parks’, not ‘parks’, and a huge pet peeve of mine! As an owner of a rescue who startles easily to screaming and yelling, I leave whenever a child comes into the dog park. Its not fair to my dog that her exercise time be cut short, but I just don’t want to risk it.

    Shaw dog park rules state children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult, but I think that is specific to Shaw and not for all dog parks. http://shawdogs.org/park-rules/

    • -A

      and it’s basically never enforced.

  • KP

    In the dog bite scenarios I’ve witnessed (dog and human), the owner of the dog who bit has either a) grabbed their dog and run away or b) yelled at the party who was bitten, refused to share information, and then stormed off. Letting your kid play in a dog park is not a good idea either way, but I wouldn’t necessarily assume the parent was not present.

    • FridayGirl

      Agreed about not assuming, but that description IS incredibly vague. Like, I see a ton of small white and brown dogs walking around every day…….

      • Tsar of Truxton

        If you owned a small, brown and white dog who bit a child on 4/16, I am pretty sure you could figure out it was you the sign was referring to.

    • K

      Yeah I was going to say the same thing. This doesn’t mean the parent wasn’t present. If my child were ever bitten (FYI I don’t take my dog or kids to dog parks) I don’t think I would have the emotional capacity to get the dogs vaccine record at the time. I’d be trying to keep it together so I could figure out how to get my kid to the ER stat, while gathering my dog and things and probably trying to get home to my car (since most people don’t drive to dog parks). This isn’t a fender bender it’s a medical emergency.

      And before I get online yelled at I am not arguing for kids in dog parks. Like I said, I don’t take my dog or my kids to dog parks. I bought a house with a big (for the city) yard and a nice fence for this very reason.

    • my husband was bit by a dog at a dog park and the owner’s first response was “I’m an attorney” AKA you must want to sue me. It was ridiculous.

  • anon

    All dogs, regardless of origin, have things they like or dislike. Small people, tall people, dogs, squirrels, certain foods, what-have-you.

    A dog biting a child, especially if it is provoked, is not illegal. Since it sounds like this was the case of a child entering an area with dogs, there is inherent risk assumed, and that will likely be understood by DOH, who does these investigations into ‘dangerous’ dogs. Who knows, the parent might understand it was a provoked bite, this sign does not imply one way or the other. However, since the bite was severe enough to warrant a trip to the hospital, yes, the hospital is required to report that to animal control/DOH. DOH is most concerned with rabies. The parent has a right to know the animal’s vax record for purposes of treatment of the child. Otherwise, they will have to, in an abundance of caution, seek and pay for rabies vax and treatment for their child.

    However, it does create a record for the animal, which is the responsible thing. It helps to track repeated behavior, which implies an animal’s tendencies to behave in certain situations. Dog parks, with all of their stimuli, are ripe with opportunity for bites to occur. Bites usually occur after the animal has already shown warnings and other signs of stress or discomfort. In which case, I would encourage all dog owners to understand their dogs’ body language, likes/dislikes, and therefore avoid and manage situations to minimize risk of bites.

    • SWChick

      As a former epidemiologist who had the p̶l̶e̶a̶s̶u̶r̶e̶ duty of doing these type of investigations on a regular basis), I applaud your comment, well said. I really don’t have much to add. Great job.

    • logan

      As an owner, if you want to let your dog off leash, one of the main ways you avoid the risk of your dog biting someone is to take them to a dog park. I feel no sympathy for a parent who lets their kid run around a dog park. Dog parks are for dogs. Playgrounds are for kids.

      • Mamasan

        I agree that the child shouldn’t have been in the dog park. That said, rabies vaccination for humans is both incredibly painful and incredibly expensive (6 huge shots in the stomach that cost about $2k each, from what my colleague experienced). That’s a lot to put a child through for a stupid mistake, so it would be the right thing for the dog owner to provide their dog’s rabies vaccination information. Any dog in a DC dog park is supposed to be licensed and fully up to date on all shots. The issue of liability is unlikely to arise as someone in a dog park is roughly the equivalent of a dog walker entering your home; there’s an expected risk.

      • P.W. Jack

        As an owner, if you want to avoid the risk of your dog biting someone, you can buy your own land and live on it.

        Dog parks are not “bite licensed” areas. Just because you put your dog in a dog park does not mean you abdicate responsibility if it bites someone or something. Children are young people, or perhaps an easier way for you to see it is to say adults are old children. i.e. a person. Your dog is your responsibility no matter where you put it unless it is safely locked on your property (even there in most cases it’s treated as livestock as soon as things go sideways).

        And I say this as a dog lover with several dogs, but I can’t stand to think that at any moment they are not my responsibility.

        • Alan


          I mean, I wonder how the dog owner would feel if someone else’s dog bit him/her while he/she was in the dog park with his/her dog? People have to come to dog parks too and owners have to keep their dogs from biting them, period.

          • C_petworth

            Dogs do sometimes nip at other dogs and the owners break it up. A nip for a dog is less series then a nip on a child because of their fur and skin. Do you have a lot of experience with animals? I am assuming not since healthy rough play between dogs can involve teeth. The whole point of the dog park is to let the dogs run free and play with other dogs. There are no need to kids to be in the park walking or playing aroudn the dogs

        • flieswithhoney

          Of course your dog is your responsibility, just the same way that a kid is a parent’s responsibility. An owner doesn’t get a free pass for it’s dog to bite someone at a dog park but there is a reasonable assumption that the people in the dog park will make common sense decisions to keep themselves safe, i.e., don’t chase, hit, pull their hair, run in front of them, grab at a ball in a dog’s mouth, etc. Parents should be there to ensure that kids make these common sense decisions.

  • textdoc

    “I fear some good dogs could get put down because children are entering dog parks unsupervised.”
    This is unlikely. We’ve read on PoPville in the past about how hard it is even to get a dog classified as a “dangerous dog,” even when the dog is demonstrably dangerous — like, it’s bitten multiple people. I get the impression that D.C. almost never puts down dangerous dogs — the closest situation is that an armed police officer encounters a dog that’s apparently dangerous and shoots it.

  • ExParkUser

    I just moved away from this neighborhood, and would take Sterling (my pointer) to this dog park all the time. I totally sympathize with the OP here- the neighborhood kids climb the fence, jump up on the green box thing on the end, try to rile up the dogs with balls and sticks and run around screaming when the dogs interact. And no, the parents are NOT present. This isn’t an issue of ill behaved dogs or poor dog owners; its an issue of ill behaved, unsupervised children.

    I’ve told the kids they need to have a parent with them, and they respond with “Oh my mom said I could be here.” I’m only 24 and certainly not old enough to be respected by a bunch of 10 year olds. The only option I could think of was to leave the park when they bothered Sterling too long, which I hated doing, but it was the best way to protect both them and my dog.

    • C_petworth

      aren’t children suppose to be accompanied by an adult if they are a certain age? Does Dc have rules about unaccompanied minors.

      for those dog parks that are run by DC parks and Recs do they have a policy on this? Might be worth reaching out to them.

      • ExParkUser

        If I remember correctly, the sign at the entrance to the park does have a statement about kids of a certain age not being allowed in the park. But how enforceable is that? The kids who are causing the problems don’t care about rules, that’s clear by their behavior.

    • Pixie

      Wow, that sounds so dangerous and you’re being a good dog owner by removing your dog from that situation.

    • Boom

      Well ExParkUser, based on your comment, it appears that you were not there last night to observe the incident. Nowhere is it noted that the bitten child was an unruly “neighborhood kid” nor was it determined that the child’s parent was not actually present. As such its probably best not to make assumptions as to what happened, solely, off of your negative experiences.

      • anon

        Then I’ll make some assumptions as another former user of that park. There is low income housing directly across the street from the dog park and kids frequently came over without any adult and did exactly what the OP said – harassed the dogs, climbed the fences, and generally ruined the entire point of a dog park – to let dogs run off leash where there aren’t children in danger of being bitten.

      • ExParkUser

        Have you been to this dog park? Were you there last night? Have you read all the other comments here where people are saying the same thing?

    • 7thStTechGuy

      Yup! Dont go there anymore, ferral children.

      • Alan

        If you can’t get children to respect you, they’re not feral, you’re just terrible at being an adult. I’ve lived in this city 20-plus years and I’ve told kids in neighborhoods all over the city to cut it out when they were getting unruly. The vast majority of kids listen to adults who take an authoritative stance, especially when they’re misbehaving.

  • Elizabeth

    My daughter adores going to the dog park to watch the dogs play. We live very close to one in Petworth and we take her often. She is in preschool so we obviously go with her, but we also never ever go inside. We stand outside the fence and watch the dogs play, much like we go to the zoo and watch the animals without trying to get into their space and play with them.

    • Kd

      Parenting. You’re doing it right! Wish more were like you

  • C_petworth

    I was at the dog park with my friend and her dog once and a guy brought his toddler into the dog park because he said “he wants the kid to be less afraid of dogs”. It was really stressful. the dogs were running circles around the park as normal and when this man let his toddler walk free about the park the owners all had to grab their dogs so they would stop running around because the dogs were getting close to this child. I thought this was ridiculous. THe whole point of the park if for the dogs to run free !

    • Abdc

      This! This exact same thing happened to me! I was petrified of my overly friendly big dog knocking the kid over just by being curious. Even with the parent stating that fact, you never know how they’ll react once the kid does scrape their knee or whatever due to a dog. I ended up following my dog around and hovering around the kid anytime my dog went near “it”

  • B’Dale Res

    I am assuming the child that was bitten, was not a child that lives across the street from the park in the public housing complex? While walking through the park last night, kids were running around like crazy and threatened to kick my dogs face in. Quite the desires of a 7-8 year old.

  • lakeisleinnisfree

    I cannot argue with most of the comments about the risks children at dog parks can present. But I love it when one parent brings his/her toddler to the 11th and Park park because the child is so excited to be around the dogs. But it is risky even with a very attentive parent.

    • rss

      I have a friend who does this occasionally at 11th and Park. I didn’t even really realize it was a “thing” until I was there with my dog on a Saturday morning and he walked in with his 2 year old son. For the most part the kid stayed in his stroller, although he walked around a little. It was early enough on a Saturday that there weren’t too many dogs there, so I don’t think it bothered any of the other dog owners trying to exercise their dogs (including me). I think as long as the kid is supervised and it isn’t peak rush hour of dog play time, it can be a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

  • General Grant Circle

    Another thought on this: We have parks particularly for kids and parks particularly for dogs for a reason presumably (and also just generally public parks for both for a reason).
    Why the mix n match?

  • Ward One Resident

    There are rules about this and they are posted at every dog park in the city: An attending adult must closely supervise all children under age sixteen (16).

    It’s unclear whether or not the child referenced in the sign was with a parent or unsupervised, but I would think if they were supervised the parents would have gotten the information about the dog’s vaccines.

  • went to the source

    DC parks and rec does not have any offical policy on their website about minors at dog parks. I emailed them asking if they want to comment. Doubt ill here back but if they say anything ill post it.

    • Ward One Resident


      They are on the website (not the main page though, you have to dig for them for some reason) and they are posted at every single city dog park. Whether or not people bother to read them well, that’s a different discussion.

    • Ward One Resident

      They are on the city’s website, albeit not on the main page. I just tried to post the link, but it was moderated and then not posted.

      The official policy is no unattended minors under 16.

      They are also posted on green signs at every official city dog park in the city (remember there are some unofficial/”private” dog parks so the green signs won’t be there).

  • anon

    Agree with a lot of the comments about kids and dogs, but I think people are assuming that the kid went to the dog park alone and that they were just there to see the dogs (the kid could have been with parent and their own dog). If a child under my care was bitten, my first response would be to scoop him/her up and take him to the hospital. I wouldn’t necessarily be looking to make sure I could precisely describe the dog. And only later would I think that I probably should have gotten the information about the dog from the dog owner. I mean, we’ve seen other posts about dog on dog bites where the owner of the bitten dog doesn’t get the other dog’s info because they want to get to the vet as quickly as possible. I can easily see that happening here.

  • I’m totally in favor of parents letting their kids roam around and explore, I think the helicopter parenting and people parenting on behalf of other parents (telling them how bad they’re doing their job) has gotten so out of control. However, if you’re one of those parents who embrace that ideology then you got to suck it up when your kid comes home and tells you he went to a dog park and was bitten by, shocker, a dog. I’m also not going to read more into the note than what’s actually written there. It sounds like the parent could just want to verify that the dog has the proper shots so they don’t need to treat the kid for rabies or anything, not that they want to sue the pants off the owner.

  • SheShaw

    I see this at Bundy dog park frequently… Unsupervised kids (who are not there with dogs of their own) come to the dog park and run around screaming and riling up the dogs. When an owner brings their dog to the dog park it is enough of a responsibility to be watchful of your own dog interacting with the other dogs without having to worry about random kids who likely don’t understand proper protocol for approaching dogs. The hospital should be calling CPS to report negligent parents.

  • Dog In Bloomingdale

    At this dog park specifically, many children come without supervision. We have had children ten and under hit our dog with sticks and shoes while shouting “bad dog” in addition to general screaming and running from the dogs. Our dog is good with children but both times this happened I feared that would change our dog’s attitude so we had to leave. These same children (at least two that we have seen) have also asked to play games on our cell phones which was very strange. I think the larger issue with Ledroit Dog Park in general is ensuring that young children don’t just come in on their own to entertain themselves. I’m not sure how to avoid this, but we don’t go here very often for this very reason.

  • Bex

    The dog park near my house posted rules about no children unless with their parents for 16 and younger. I have been around when kids try to come are in the dog park, and I promptly tell them that I need to meet their mom and they need to leave now. I explain that dogs like to play with dogs, like kids want to play with kids, not with adults. I tell the kids, I dont want them to get hurt, so they should watch from outside the fence. They seem to get it or I scare them just enough :) I think it is our right to kick out kids unsupervised and watch our dogs only. I am in Silver Spring.

  • Tigs

    unsupervised kids have no place in a dog park. It’s like thunderdome in there sometimes. I have been knocked over and nipped many times. I have heard of full grown adults getting ACL and other bad injuries. It is no place for Kids without adults. I once witnessed a baby in a stroller come in (with a parent obviously) and all the dogs swarmed the poor baby who will certainly grow up to be a non-dog lover.

  • anon

    is the OP saying that the onus is on the parents to make sure someone else’s dog doesn’t attack their child? this completely gets the liability wrong — kids should be able to run around and have fun at parks without being afraid that dogs could attack them. keep the dogs away if they don’t play well with others

  • gilla

    Some dogs also behave differently in packs than they do on their own which makes this more of a risk.

  • eric says

    I know the people involved. The boy was at the dog park with his father and their dog. When the boy was bitten, the father and the dog’s owner spoke and it was all very cordial. The boy didn’t realize until he got home that the skin was broken. The boy had to go through a few days of shots before the dog’s owner was contacted. Once contact was made the shot series ended and everyone is doing fine.


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