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PARKS PROPOSE DOG TAGS

The county wants to register dogs so it can easily identify ones that cause problems.

Ringed by concerned dog lovers at the West Park Dog Park, Lois Kessler shouted her explanations over a cacophony of barks.

As their dogs romped Tuesday evening, their owners questioned Kessler, recreation services manager for the Hillsborough Parks Department, about the registration tags that county-run dog parks might soon require.

Officials say the free registration will make it easier to identify the owners of disruptive animals. Both of the county's dog parks - at West Park and at the Mango Recreation Center in Seffner - have had problems with aggressive dogs, dogs off-leash outside the fenced-in area and owners who don't pick up after their pets, said John Brill, a spokesman for the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department

"It's human nature, I think, that if you sign up for something and register for something, you're more likely to follow the rules," he said.

Currently, it is hard to identify the owners of dogs that cause problems, Brill said. Sometimes all anyone knows is the dog's name and breed and the kind of car their owner drove. With the new rules, it could be easy identify an owner from these scraps of information, Kessler said.

Owners also will have to sign a waiver that releases the county from liability for accidents.

An incident at the Mango dog park in which a puppy was mauled helped convince parks administrators to draft the new rule, Kessler said.

Volunteers at the Mango center started a pilot registration program earlier this year, Kessler said. Those who signed up there will have to reregister.

The rules would take effect when the county opens two new dog parks at Carolyn Meeker Park in Lutz and Logan Gate Park in Citrus Park in late August, Kessler said.

Several at Tuesday's meeting welcomed the new rules.

"They're common sense," said Bree Cotlar, who brings her basset hounds Sarah and Ruby to West Park nearly every morning.

Some did worry that the new restrictions would penalize responsible owners for minor infractions while rule-breakers avoid registration.

Officials will answer questions again Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Mango Recreation Center dog park at 11717 Clay Pit Road.

IF YOU GO

Hillsborough County dog parks

Currently open:

- Mango Recreation Center, 11717 Clay Pit Road, Seffner

- West Park, 6402 Occident Street, Tampa

Opening late August:

- Carolyn Meeker Park, 122 SW 1st Ave., Lutz

- Logan Gate Park, 7374 Monterey Blvd., Citrus Park

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