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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 3 years ago

Dog injury prompts Longboat to consider park changes

20-pound dog slipped through fence in Bayfront Park's 'big-dog' area and was hit on nearby Gulf of Mexico Drive.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

Debora LaMent and her husband had just returned to Longboat Key when they brought their two dogs to Bayfront Park.

It was the second time in the week before Thanksgiving that they’d brought their pups, Chance and Pye, to the no-leash park just a few miles from their Cedars East winter home. 

Both of her dogs were in a larger-dog part of park, where spaces between the bars at the bottom are wider than those in “small dog area.” Although a sign at the entrance recommends this area for “small and fragile dogs,” the sides weren’t labeled.

It was between those aluminum bars that Chance, a 4-year-old, 20-pound Parsons Jack Russell Terrier, squeezed his head, LaMent said. 

Seconds later, Chance wiggled through and under the railing just yards from Gulf of Mexico Drive as LaMent said she dove to catch him. 

She missed.

“I saw him get hit by a car,” LaMent said. “It was the most horrifying thing I’ve lived through so far.”

Now LaMent wants the dog park closed until town officials do something to prevent further incidents like this. 

The town has put temporary signs on the fence, however, telling visitors which side of the park is meant for which size dogs. 

A temporary sign at Bay Front dog park.

“We believe that enough precautions are in place,” Public Works Director Isaac Brownman said. 

The two sides of the park were designed with large and small dogs in mind, Brownman said. The large dog area, from which Chance escaped, was built with wider gaps between the bars, a lower-cost alternative to the narrow fencing in the small dog area, Brownman said. 

“It goes back to the intention for each of those areas,” Brownman said. “[Tighter fencing is] an additional material so that would be additional cost.”

But the town does want to do something, Brownman said. The Public Works Department has called fencing contractors for price quotes on alternative safety measures, including low chain-link fencing or additional aluminum bars. 

Since the park is already built, Brownman said the town must consider both cost and installation before it can decide what to do. Brownman said he is uncertain when this fix may be made.

But the park will remain open in the meantime, he said.

The permanent sign posted at the entrance includes a rule that reads, “Canine and human visitors enter at their own risk, the Town of Longboat Key cannot be responsible for injuries to visiting dogs, their owners, or others using the park.” 

LaMent took Chase to a veterinarian in Bradenton then had him transferred by pet ambulance to a 24/7 veterinary intensive care unit about an hour away. Doctors “lost him” multiple times in transit, LaMent said. 

Chance survived, but LaMent said the prognosis is not good. LaMent said that seeing, and hearing, her dog get hit by a car was “something that you can’t easily digest.”

“Not only did the dog go into shock, I think we did, too,” LaMent said. “If any dog can get out of any dog park, the damn thing should be locked until it can be fixed, period.”

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