SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - On any given day, you'll find Maddie Anes and her dog Nomar at the Raising Cane's dog park in Baton Rouge.
"He would just get really riled up and it's really nice for him to get socialized out here and play with other dogs rather than just playing fetch all day," said Anes.
That's just one observation I made as well during my recent visit to the Capitol City. Located right next to City Park and just a short distance from LSU, this fenced in, no leash dog park was filled with dogs of all sizes and owners. It had hoses to wash your pup, lots of filled water bowls and whole lot of room to roam.
I noticed people not just socializing, but also getting to know more about their dogs which promotes responsible ownership.
"There's a lot of things you might not know about your dog that other people might be able to help like obedience and training and getting your dog acclimated to different situations which is really nice," said Anes.
Another dog owner told me that a dog park shows that a city is progressive and it supports pet adoptions especially for people who have no yard for their dogs to exercise free from leashes.
"One of the big reasons I got a dog here in Baton Rouge is because there are so many dog parks here so it's a great place to own a dog," said dog owner Alie Fritz.
Building a dog park like this one was not easy. Like Shreveport, there were skeptics, but in 2006, the Baton Rouge Recreation and parks (BREC) Foundation developed a dog park planafter an "Imagine Your Park" survey of residents showed support for the idea. Their first call to action was to find a corporate sponsor. That's when the owner of chicken restaurant Raising Cane's stepped in. Todd Graves said a dog park was a perfect fit. His restaurant is named after his dog, Raising Cane's. So BREC and Graves got to work on a plan.
The private / public partnership came up with $120,000, matched equally by both sides to build the first park named Raising Cane's and located right next to City Park.
"Being a dog lover and also loving people it was a great way to bring dog owners together and community and having fun with their pets," said Graves.
"Sometimes you have to build the first one and if they see that and if they realize and see how everyone can come together. It all follows," said Carl Stages, the Executive Director of the BREC Foundation.
Not long after that first park, another was built, Then another. Now there are five, and there are plans for more on the way.
"Not only did we get to do a dog park we also got recognition for it," said Graves. "From that people have good will towards Raisin Cane's. People come and eat Raisin Cane's chicken which is great and then we get to go out and be able to spend more money in the community."
So what's the hold up in Shreveport?
After years of back and forth over the issue of a dog park in Shreveport, it appeared that the solution was a $280,000 grant to build a dog park at Hamel Memorial off Clyde Fant Parkway.The money was approved by the Red River Waterway Commission. But Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover said multiple times that the Waterway Commission money should go elsewhere, such as putting up warning signs for swimmers along the Red River. The Shreveport Council voted for the project to go forward. The mayor vetoed it, and the council overrode his veto.
"We're at a stalemate," said Councilman Mike Corbin after I brought up the dog park idea again when I returned from my trip to Baton Rouge.
"I think it's time to take a step back and see are there ways to move forward with this and what's the best way going to be," said Corbin.
If the Hamel park plan is dead for now, I asked why not do something similar to what happened in Baton Rouge?
"Absolutely," said Cynthia Keith with the Shreveport Dog Park Alliance. "That's the way the city prefers it to happen."
Keith and others has been pushing the dog park idea since 2009,
"It's a little bit embarrassing that we don't have any (dog parks) when people are moving or even thinking about moving or even companies moving into the are that's one of the things they look for is dog parks," said Keith.
I asked Todd Graves if he would be interested in helping Shreveport build dog parks similar to
the successful parks in Baton Rouge. His answer? Yes, just come up with a plan.
"We've had great success in Shreveport and people there have supported us and the Bossier area absolutely we would love to be involved with any kind of dog park that the people want,"said Graves.
To make it work, Corbin said the city would have to have it's ducks in a row.
"We have to have a plan that will fit his (Graves) funding model and we have to have some agreement from everyone in the process," said Corbin.
I obtained a statement from Mayor Glover as to where the city stands now on the dog park issue.
"Many citizens have expressed a desire for something other than a parkway location, and we
have researched alternative locations all along," said Glover. "We have identified viable options
we see as a no or low-cost option for taxpayers. We will be discussing further with the Council,
our citizens and potential corporate partners as we move forward into 2013."
"We will continue to pursue Clyde Fant Parkway improvements in line with the priorities established by our citizens in the riverfront-planning process," said Glover.
Glover's office would not elaborate on specifics as to what viable options, what corporate
partners and a time table on the next step in this process.