Minnetonka dogs may soon get a license to roam.
After considering confining off-leash dogs to an enclosed dog park, it now looks as if the city will continue to allow canines to roam free in natural areas under their owners' voice command.
But they will probably have to wear a "pet in the park" license.
The license is one part of a revised park ordinance scheduled for approval by the Minnetonka Park Board in October. Board members heard the proposal Wednesday and indicated they don't want to let a few irresponsible dog owners spoil privileges for everyone.
"I have been chased and growled at, but I am willing to put up with the exceptions,'' said board member Denny Lambert. "I have faith in everybody's ability to pitch in and monitor one another.''
But the city is also proposing to enclose 14 acres in Lone Lake Park where for an annual fee dogs could run and socialize without a license.
Cost of that fee and the licenses have not yet been proposed. To get a license to allow their dogs to roam off-leash, owners would agree in writing to keep their dogs under control.
Owners also must agree to carry waste pick-up bags at all times.
Minnetonka began a review of park rules in May after complaints about unattended, free-roaming dogs jumping up on runners, trail walkers and a 2-year-old in a stroller. A community service officer suggested it was time for Minnetonka to curb its liberal dog privileges and create a fenced-in dog park for off-leash animals.
After that, the city received a storm of e-mail from dog owners passionate about preserving the pleasure of walking through the parks with their dogs running free.
After reviewing comments and suggestions, parks and trails manager Perry Vetter recommended a revised ordinance with three options for dogs -- a dog park, leashed walking and off-leash walking with a license.
The rules would continue to ban dogs from beaches and athletic fields. But for the first time they would be allowed to walk on-leash through parking lots and to the spectator areas of sports fields.
In all neighborhood parks, dogs would have to be leashed. They would be permitted to run free under voice command only in undeveloped natural areas of at least 25 acres in the city's biggest parks: Big Willow, Jidana, Victoria Evergreen and Purgatory, Vetter said. In Jidana, off-leash privileges would be suspended about 15 days each year in August and on occasional weekends for youth events and camping.
Pet waste -- from dogs both on and off leash -- continues to be a problem, Vetter said. The city already spends up to $9,000 a year to make plastic pick up bags available from 86 dispensers in 50 city parks. Now he proposes to ask for volunteers to keep the dispensers full and to put up new signs reminding dog owners to carry waste disposal bags.
Most dog owners at the park board meeting Wednesday said they appreciated the options offered in the revised ordinance. Many said problems about off-leash dogs had been overstated. But two dog owners who walk their dogs on-leash said all dogs should be on a leash in city parks.
"The voice command concept to me is a dream world,'' said a woman who owns three Rotweillers and regularly walks two at a time on a leash. "I don't want to deal with dogs that come running out of the woods.''
Dog owner Dave Ingraham said the city should post signs letting people know that they could encounter loose dogs in undeveloped areas of the parks. But, he said, the city should protect the ability for owners to walk with their dogs and experience nature.
Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711