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Legacy Decatur to update policy, require dogs to be leashed at Legacy Park

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Legacy Decatur to update policy, require dogs to be leashed at Legacy Park

Legacy Park on S. Columbia Drive in the city of Decatur on August 12, 2020. The park occupies the former site of the United Methodist Children’s Home. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Legacy Decatur Board, at its May 24 meeting, discussed changing the leash policy for dogs at Legacy Park to require that all dogs must be on a leash.

Legacy Decatur is the organization that oversees Legacy Park, which was formerly the United Methodist Children’s Home. Legacy Park is located on South Columbia Drive in Decatur.

When the Legacy Park property was annexed into the city in 2019, it became subject to the city’s leash ordinance, which requires that dogs be on leashes on public property, except in designated dog parks.

When the property was the United Methodist Children’s Home, some nearby neighbors would use the meadow to walk their dogs off-leash. Legacy Decatur attempted to continue that practice as a pilot project. The pilot project has ended after a dog attack and given the increasing number of visitors to the park and planned additional recreational facilities, Legacy Decatur Executive Director Lyn Menne told Decaturish.

“On May 4, 2023, an off-leash dog attacked an on-leash dog in the meadow area, causing injury to the dog and its owner.  The owner of the off-leash dog was present, but was unable to control the dog,” Menne said. “As a result, we ended the off-leash policy in the eastern area of Legacy Park.  This was a pilot project created 18 months ago, allowing dogs under ‘voice command’ to be off-leash in the meadow and trails area east of the farm fence.”

She added that the on-leash requirement has been met with positive reactions, and the organization received some requests to consider other options that would allow the off-leash policy to remain in place.

“The Legacy Decatur Board briefly discussed several suggestions including holding a once-a-month dog meet-up, creating special off-leash periods, and requiring dogs to pass a ‘voice command’ test to receive a special tag allowing them to be off-leash,” Menne said.

Board Member Peggy Merriss said, during the meeting, that a hybrid option would be difficult to enforce and park visitors would likely not know if there was a designated time for dogs to off-leash versus on-leash.

The board was concerned about how those options could be enforced and about making sure all park visitors are safe.

“With the planned construction of a track in the area of the existing athletic fields and the growing number of activities and visitors at the park, the off-leash dog policy is no longer a safe option,” Menne said.

During the meeting, Menne said this was a situation that required an all-or-nothing approach, as some of the options discussed would be difficult to enforce without a staff member out on the property.

Legacy Decatur has received some complaints in the past about off-leash dogs, but had not had an incident as severe as the May 4 attack.

Board Secretary Andrea Arnold hoped the pilot project would work, but also believed the board would have this conversation at some point as affordable housing projects and the track and field are built at Legacy Park.

“I was hoping at least for some period of time there would be this free play for the dogs and their owners, but also the whole time, in the back of my head I’m thinking that these days are numbered because this property is about to change dramatically with so many additional users,” Arnold said. “I think it was just a matter of time before we started looking for a way to regulate the dogs.”

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