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Posted on Tue, May 1, 2012 : 7:31 a.m.

The party may be over for responsible dog owners, but who will clean up Slauson's playground now?

By Letters to the Editor

Well, the once a week, hour-long, off-leash dog gathering at Slauson Middle School is now officially dead.

Last Saturday (April 28), the Ann Arbor Police politely warned the participants that this would no longer be tolerated due to a complaint by the principal of Slauson that was no doubt prompted by exposure from the recent article and the guest column from the Slauson athletic director.

Thumbnail image for no-pets-allowed-slauson-middle-school.jpg

Ann Arbor police have warned dog owners to end the once a week gathering at Slauson MIddle School playground, which has been used an unofficial dog park on Saturdays.

While I believe their intent was well meaning and agree kids shouldn’t be exposed to dog doo, I wholeheartedly disagree with the accusations that this gathering is responsible for the problem.

Yes, there are many irresponsible dog owners that don’t clean up after their pets, but the fact is the Saturday group has been very diligent about picking up not only their own pet messes but also anything else they may find. I am confident about this because I have been there many times, witnessed such diligence, and helped enforce this code of conduct. I would venture a guess that the poo issue will now get worse for Slauson since it will no longer benefit from the once a week sweep performed by the dog party participants. Maybe the school yard isn’t the best place for a dog gathering but it should be noted this has been going on for better than a decade without incident and will be missed by many because of the misplaced complaints of a few.

One positive note is that this shut down may galvanize the dog community, estimated to be better than 50,000 strong, to campaign for a “legal” alternative. Perhaps the athletic director, as a responsible dog owner, will join us in this effort to create a walkable site on the near west side where dogs can enjoy some measure of freedom and get the socialization they need.

John Lawter
Ann Arbor



Sun, May 6, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

If there 50,000 in the local dog community, why not have them pitch in $10 each and get a prime piece of real estate to romp and poop on? With an additional $1 a year they could pay some poor soul to clean up the mess. The Slauson playground is public property meant for kids to play on and has a no dogs rule. Why would pet owners think they have the entitlement to use it for a canine playground? You all are responsible for the pets you have, if your own private property is not large enough for them to romp and play on, why expect the community in general to provide one for you?


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

Even if YOU think your precious dog is NICE, my LEASHED dog is aggressive towards other dogs and DOESN't want you dog sniffing his butt. I have had at least 3 times walking my dog where I had to literally run the other direction with my LEASHED dog because some *nice person* with an unleashed dog allows their dog to approach mine and I have no way to stop my dog if he chooses to attack. You people who think it is ok to walk around with your dog unleashed are completely ignorant assuming that you will know how your dog will react to another dog passing on a leash. SO don't say to me "he/she is friendly blah blah blah,"b cause it won't make a difference when my dog attacks yours and it will have been YOUR FAULT. Oh and anyone using the argument about going over the speed limit, are ignorant too


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

I wonder if Mr Lawter would express the same carefree attitude about urine and fecal material if a large group of people walked through his neighborhood every weekend, with each person stopping to use his family's lawn as a toilet? Think about it, it is just as illegal for a dog to leave such a deposit as it is for a person, and certainly equally gross. Would Mr. Lawter condone making a pit-stop on a playground if there wasn't a bathroom within walking distance? I'm guessing he would, if the poor pooper picked up his mess (especially if he "diligently" picked up that of any other walker similarly "forced" to go on public property because the City hasn't installed toilets at convenient locations). But, alleging that you (and all of your friends) are diligent about cleaning up the waste doesn't make it okay to drop those deposits on any patch of grass you find to be convenient. It doesn't make the behavior any less socially unacceptable or violative of city ordinance. Someone who is on the Parks Commission should know better, does know better, and really should consider stepping down if this is the level of regard he has for existing city laws pertaining to behavior in parks/public green spaces.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

I'm a dog owner, but I was never at the Slauson meetup. Reading the comments in these threads, though, has been a bit of an eye-opener. I start to wonder if it's time to think of getting out and living some place with a more tolerant, open-minded, live-and-let-live attitude. Where, in supposedly liberal AA did all the "What part of rules-are-rules-are-rules don't you understand" people come from? I guess it's not that kind of liberal. Yes, there are dog parks, but they're nowhere close to where I live (or where most people live) and then there's the permit fee & bureaucracy: After all the taxes I pay (at lot of them for services I never use), another $50/year and a special application & license to let my dog fetch a ball in the park or a stick in the river? No thanks. And just how did the city determine a license and fee was required for this special interest, but not others? There are no licenses or charges to use structures (even though many people have no kids) or use the tennis or basketball courts (even many people don't play). I'm not aware of any fees or licenses required to play the Bandemeer Park disc golf course (and I'm sure there are lot more dog owners than disc golfers). So why the special licenses and fees only for people who want to use dog play areas with their pets?


Sun, May 6, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

I'm sorry, you definition of liberal is a bit off. No rules is more of a libertarian thing. Liberals fully believe in public health, pubic safety, personal rights and responsibilities. Maybe you need to find a nice big piece of land inTexas or Wyoming.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

Good luck finding a community more oriented towards their dog owner, except maybe in the country.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:16 a.m.

You want to force unwilling strangers to be subjected to the attentions of your unrestrained dog, and your argument is "live and let live"? Seriously?


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Really Mister Lawter, this is quite clear cut. You and your friends were holding illegal gatherings on school property - gatherings that clearly had consequences for the health and safety of the children and staff at the school. You are not the wronged party here and pretending you are just makes pet owners look bad. The Kids who have to go to school with dog excrement on themselves, along with the parents, teachers, and classmates who are exposed, are the wronged parties. Will stopping the gathering stop all incidents of people not cleaning up after their dogs? No, of course not, but it's not going to make things worse. By the way, I say this as someone who prefers animals to most people, especially children. If I'm about to play you the world's smallest violin, I can't even imagine what cynophobes and parents think.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

I wonder if Mr. Lawter is good at his job as associate director of grounds services for UofM making 147K a year? Because he sure is NOT good as a park that he intentionally breaks the rules and then complains when caught...


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

I wonder how the director of grounds services would react to UM students and faculty slipping and sliding in doggy doo. Heck, maybe he could find some nice unused land on campus for him and his friends, and see how his employer feels about that.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

If the dog community is "50,000 strong" I suggest those 50,000 all chip in, and buy themselves a little plot of land somewhere where the rest of us won't have to step in their mess.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:13 a.m.

Mw, no one's stopping you from using public parks, you just have to keep your dog on a leash. How hard is it? Do cyclists and skaters chase after you and stick their noses in your crotch? Do softball players jump on you and leave scratches on your arms and legs? Do basketball players cause you to need an inhaler? Your analogy is illogical.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

Is that what you suggest for public parks in general? Should all parents in Ann Arbor chip in, buy plots of land 'somewhere' so the rest of us don't have to put up with all the noise and commotion of little kids? Should all tennis and basketball players in AA have to pitch in to buy private land and build their own courts so the rest of us don't have to pay for it? Should all cyclists and in-line skaters buy land somewhere for their own paved paths? What percentage of Ann Arborites play in baseball or softball leagues? I'll bet it's relatively small and they take up a lot of park land -- so maybe all the players should have to buy land for private ball parks?


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

Wow Mr. sad that you and your "friends" must follow the law...which I find ironic based on the spelling of your name.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 6:03 p.m.

What part of "NO PETS ALLOWED" do you not understand? Really.

J. Zarman

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Want to let John Lawter and others on the city's Park Advisory Commission know that you care that ordinances are observed? Or ask of them that no Commission member contributes to problems at school district open spaces? Attend a Park Commission meeting and air your concerns. The Park Advisory Commission meets the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 4 p.m., in City Council Chambers, 100 N. Fifth Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 -- May 15 is the next meeting. Meetings are open, and public commentary is welcome. Call the city's Parks & Recreation office for more information: 734-794-6230.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:22 p.m.

"I would venture a guess that the poo issue will now get worse for Slauson since it will no longer benefit from the once a week sweep performed by the dog party participants." You can still go clean up dog poo once a week if you so choose as a gesture of good will. Just leave your dog and his poo at home. By the way, how do you plan on sweeping up the dog pee? I'm sure the kids love sliding in that, too. Just came across this article... Scroll half way down to "Dog Parks: More Needed?" In talking about how some folks already violate city ordinance by walking their dog off leash at Bird Hills and how it's not cost effective to have police patrol the parks, there's this gem: "Lawter agreed that more enforcement is needed. A lack of enforcement only encourages more people to break the rules, he said." LOL! So now police enforce the rules and what does he do? Complain! You can't make this stuff up, lol.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

Wouldn't it be nice it Mr. Lawter signed up here and addressed some of these issues? I don't think that's going to happen!

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 8 p.m.

Sparky for the win!

Macabre Sunset

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

I suppose we all decide which laws we want to follow and which laws we don't. We accept the risks of non-compliance. However, it is the height of arrogance to claim that the people taking over Slauson's fields in knowing mass violation of city and state law are "responsible" pet owners.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

I grew up back in the day when dogs ran free all over my small town. I stepped in dog doo maybe once a year, and it was almost always in my own yard. It wasn't so much a health risk as an object lesson in the need to watch your step - as well as in how to clean an irregular surface. Ironically, limiting the places dogs can be only concentrates their droppings there. There were a few people with aggressive dogs that should have been kept leashed, fenced or indoors, but these were a minority - and I knew exactly who they were, because I delivered their newspaper. But for the most part, letting dogs run unleashed in a park or other open area is not a problem. If you don't like being approached by an overly friendly dog, fine. But in the overall scheme of things, it's a lot less annoying than sitting next to a table of overly boisterous people. It's life, deal with it. The trend in recent decades of trying to wall off every single inconvenience and minor hazard has made the world a much less interesting and enjoyable place.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:08 a.m.

Zeeba, being "approached" by a strange dog is a lot less annoying to you, so that must be the case for everyone, right? It really is inconvenient to have a variety of people in the world. I guess the problem would be solved if everyone was you, right? People with serious allergies should just "deal with it," because, after all, you're ok with it, so they should be, too. And people -- little kids, adults, seniors -- who are simply afraid of dogs, well, I guess they should just learn to be more like you. Being charged by a strange dog is more than an "inconvenience" and more than a minor hazard. Don't agree? Talk to the family of the elderly gentleman who was killed by two pit bulls while out walking near Howell a few years back, or the pregnant female who was mauled by someone's "overly friendly" dog while she was taking a walk last summer in Westland, or the lady in Pittsfield Twp. who's dog was either killed or suffered extreme injuries after an attack by some guy's loose dogs, or the woman in Dearborn Heights who was digging in her garden last summer when her neighbor's "overly friendly" dog attacked an seriously injured her and the neighbor who came to her aid. People like you are unbelievable.


Wed, May 2, 2012 : 3:10 a.m.

Zeeba, yours is the best post I've seen on this story. A lot of people who seem to take themselves way too seriously. A lot of vitriolic comments about dogs and dog poo. Sure, a world with dogs can be inconvenient (I step in it too), but I would prefer not to live in a place where all dogs are locked up in yards. I guess I just don't understand what all the hysteria is about.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

Yes, letting dogs run unleashed in a park IS a problem. Its against the law. Sorry, but this is not 'the good ole days' which weren't that good.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

I really hate when dog owners subject their pets to strangers; like when an unleashed dog jumps up and rips or stains a persons clothes, or when you step in their feces ruining your shoes AND your day. It seems like many dog owners think this is "cute", but it's actually quite rude and completely disrespectful. Keep your dogs on a leash and out of areas where a sign says "No pets". That is a fairly simple law. If the police enforce skateboard laws in this city, dog owners should be fined every time their unleashed dog annoys a fellow citizen, if they leave feces on the ground, or if they are playing in an area marked "no pets". News flash: not everyone likes dogs or thinks they are cute.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

Oops..."knocks you down and/or tears a chunk out of your leg..."


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:58 a.m.

Well mixmaster, when someone's kid charges up to you, pees on your shoes, knocks your down and/or tears a chuck out of your leg, you let us know.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

@mixmaster: Bad comparison -- kids on sidewalks and other public areas/spaces vs. AAPS property for large, off-leash dog p**ping parties. Sidewalks are public property, for people, kids, trikes & bikes, and scooters. @ John: I like your comments. Yep, there's an angry old man who lives on a corner lot in our neighborhood. Yells at all kids for walking, riding bikes, or riding scooters on HIS public piece of sidewalk... We avoid his side of the street now! (He always had very specific instructions as to where he wanted his Ann Arbor News paper placed daily, too) There's probably one in every neighborhood in A2. "Get off my Lawn" (In my best Clint Eastwood voice) ps -- mixmaster: My kids are pretty cute! ;-)


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

I don't have children either. But I'm fine with paying taxes so they can go to public school and don't grow up to be ignorant and lazy... But that's aside from the point. Little kids don't leave their poop on the ground for me to step on, or intrude on my personal space, dogs with irresponsible owners do these things. I've also been attacked and mauled by two dogs during my lifetime. Little kids don't attack and scar people. The laws regarding dog responsibility are there for a reason. Maybe you should petition for some laws regarding "kids run amok and crowd public sidewalks". I imagine you as an old, angry man yelling "you whippersnappers stay off my lawn"!

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

I hate it when parents let their kids run amok [not illegal] and crowd the public sidewalks with their huge strollers [not illegal]. Screaming kids in the grocery store [not illegal] or at a movie [not illegal] drive me up the wall [also not illegal]. I also hate it when parents fetishize their kids, putting them on pedestals and make me think that they are just little angels who can do no wrong [not illegal].


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

I hate it when parents let their kids run amok and crowd the public sidewalks with their huge strollers. Screaming kids in the grocery store or at a movie drive me up the wall. I also hate it when parents fetishize their kids, putting them on pedestals and make me think that they are just little angels who can do no wrong. News flash: Not everyone likes your kids or think they are cute. I don't have children yet gladly pay taxes to support the schools and their untaxed property.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

What part of "dogs must be on a leash" do you not understand? Its people like you who give responsible dog-owners (like me) a bad name.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:34 p.m.

Keeping a dog on a leash 100 percent of the time is not responsible ownership. Dogs need to be allowed to run free, and frequently. Why do you think dog ownership is declining? Because there are very few places where people can take their dogs to run. Dog parks are not the answer, because there are too few of them and they tend to concentrate a lot of animals in a single area, which leads to problems.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

"The party may be over for responsible dog owners" I don't see where this whole discussion has ever addressed responsible dog owners. It has only been about the irresponsible ones.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Last I checked, there are two legal dog parks in Ann Arbor (one of which is 10 acres). There are also two in Saline that I know of.

Elijah Shalis

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

These are haughty people and they don't want to go near Swift Run because that area is the ghetto of Ann Arbor if there were such a thing lol.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Why did you choose a school yard instead of one of the many close by city parks? You would think that a PBGS associate director at U-M would understand that need to keep dogs out of elementary school playgrounds.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. Don't get a dog if you can't lock it up in your big backyard.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

"The Ann Arbor Police politely warned the participants that this would no longer be tolerated due to a complaint by the principal of Slauson that was no doubt prompted by exposure from the recent article and the guest column from the Slauson athletic director. " Oh, and it's ILLEGAL, but let's not bother with that tiny little detail. "One positive note is that this shut down may galvanize the dog community, estimated to be better than 50,000 strong, to campaign for a "legal" alternative." This is an amazing statement. This is a Park Commissioner, who is charged with stewardship of our parks, mocking the law (and the rest of us) with his quotes around "legal." The arrogance of these people is absolutely amazing. This is the kind of behavior that is ruining Ann Arbor.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

As I've mentioned before, there is a City-owned lot, right across Crest Ave. from the Slauson athletic fields that could potentially make for a good-sized neighborhood dog park if anyone was willing to put in a little effort to try and make that happen. It's time these dog owners stopped flouting the law, then acting all incredulous and victimized when called out on it, and started being proactive. Stop waiting for the City to hand you something on a silver platter or waiting for responsible dog owners in the city to "galvanize" and do your lobbying for you. By the way, do parks commissioners take an oath of office, promising to uphold City ordinances?


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

@Elijah: As Cesar Millan (the 'Dog Whisperer") says, "In Mexico, people are people and dogs are dogs. In the United states, people are people and dogs are people". Crazy, ain't it?

Elijah Shalis

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

The truth is many dog owners consider their dogs to be literally their children and feel as such entitled to use school property. They are very wrong in a multitude of ways.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Are you the same "John Lawter, an Ann Arbor parks commissioner, dog owner and participant in the off-leash hour" identified in the article about this issue? The fact that you in your position as a community leader, participated in this activity helped to promote the idea that it was alright to use school property as a toilet. I am SURE that many who were aware of the 50-dog gathering came to believe that it was OKAY to use the open space at other times in the same way. And, if they just happened to not have a way to pick up their dog.....they could just leave it for you to do on your weekly "gathering day". Way to be a leader in the community.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

A couple of big rains and a mowing and it will all be gone.


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

The same culture that "fetishized" kids also insists on calling dog owners "pet parents." Pot calling kettle black.

Homeland Conspiracy

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

"Think Of The Children...Won't Someone PLEASE Think Of The Children"

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

"It's for the children! is the cry" Did you get the memo that we're talking about school property? So, yes, it is kind of for the children.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Awww, the poor poor children. It's shameful that our culture fetishized kids and use them as political weapons. "It's for the children! is the cry" Aren't we getting a little tired of overindulgent parent and their precious possessions? And please tell me how many little Jonny and Janes fall down on a pile of old poop in the next couple of weeks.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

No it won't. It's tenacious stuff.

Elijah Shalis

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Oh so you mean in about two weeks time? So the kid running and falling into dog feces in that two week time period is ok?


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

You have two legal (note the lack of surrounding quotes like you chose to use, still dodging any responsibility) alternatives within the city limits, so I wish you'd quit acting like you don't. The fact that you might have to get in your car to go to one of them fails to sway my opinion. There are many places I go that are simply not within walking distance, which is going to happen in any city that isn't the size of Mayberry. Your 15 minutes are up.

Red Floyd

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

If we showed up at Slauson to hit golf balls at the same time 100 dog owners showed up to let their dogs run riot, I'm sure they would quietly NOT complain, and simply deal with it.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

If the people that CHOOSE to live near downtown are going to need us to build them a walkable copy of everything they need there won't be any room for people to live anymore. I know that I like to golf, so I guess I'll be needing the city to build a golf course in my neighborhood. And the UM hospital is kind of far, so I'll need one of those nearby. I guess every downtown residence must come furnished with a sense of entitlement.

Unusual Suspect

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

"We have people in A2 that 1)choose not to own a car and 2)can't afford to own a car." So don't get a dog then! If these people are smart enough to "choose not to own a car" why aren't they also smart enough to choose not to own a dog? If your surroundings and the locations that are accessible to you depending on the transportation at hand are not to your satisfaction, it might be best to defer dog ownership until a later time. It's not like there were dog parks all over town that disappeared right after they got their dog. There was an absence of dog parks in their neighborhood when they got the dog and they knew that at the time. The ease with which some people shield themselves from personal responsibility these days is incredible. And from my experience with this type of dog owner, the implication that if a dog park showed up in their neighborhood they would all of a sudden become full adherent to the law is far from reality.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Choosing to not own a car is your business. The mobility problems that it causes you are also your business. Don't expect the taxpayers to subsidize you because of that. How many of the Slauson crowd are car-less? Exactly. Lame argument.

just a voice

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 1:13 p.m.

Brad, some people don't own cars. You really shouldn't just assume everyone can jump into a car. We have people in A2 that 1)choose not to own a car and 2)can't afford to own a car. the legal choices are within the city limits (from the map I peeked at) yes, but they are at the edges, near people who are more likely to 1) own enough property to not need a dog park and almost certainly 2) have a car we need a legal choice in the downtown area

Ricardo Queso

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

"Without incident" ? Not according to students past and current.


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

No, a school yard is not the best place for a large, weekly off-leash dog gathering, for many reasons. You brought attention to yourself, and your rogue dog group; posting a video of yourself on YouTube, and providing an interview for It is very brazen for someone on the Parks Commission to set an example like this. Also, How would the University of Michigan, your employer, handle such a dog gathering on a weekly basis on UM property?


Tue, May 1, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

"but the fact is the Saturday group has been very diligent about picking up not only their own pet messes but also anything else they may find." This simply is NOT true. As a human companion to two dogs, I know it is impossible to clean up dog feces 100%. There are times where it is just too loose to get it all without damaging the grass or surroundings. It is irresponsible to allow this in a childs' play area. "Maybe the school yard isn't the best place for a dog gathering but it should be noted this has been going on for better than a decade without incident and will be missed by many because of the misplaced complaints of a few." Maybe? Just because it has been illegally happening, does not mean it is safe. Any incident of a child bringing feces into the class room is one too many. There are two dog parks in Ann Arbor. Olson on the northside on Dhu Varren and Swift Run on the southside on Platt. Memberships are required for a small yearly fee. A dog park on the westside would be a welcomed sight. Hopefully the violators will constructively organize and a section of Vet's park can be fenced in for this purpose.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, May 1, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

I grew up in a dog household. I've been a dog owner for most of my adult life. I have two smaller dogs at the moment. There was a time "in the good old days" when leashes were pretty much optional and nobody scooped their dogs poop. But those days are gone around these parts. I accept it and live with it.