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Letters, May 22

Dogs in Lithia Park: civility, please

A recent letter about unwelcome dogs in Lithia Park (May 7) describes those who bring their dogs to Lithia Park and are rude to other walkers who object. The writer also alludes to people who abuse the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), falsely claiming their dog is a service dog. (ADA law stipulates that service animals must be allowed in all public spaces.)

May I add one more form of verbal abuse that happens at Lithia Park: I am regularly accosted by other walkers with angry looks or angry words about “No dogs allowed in the park.” They ignore the clearly marked service dog vest my hearing-assist dog wears and assume because I look “normal” that I’m not disabled. In fact, I have significant deafness, and my dog alerts me to sounds of animals and humans I do not hear as I walk.

Both scenarios raise this question: Why this lack of civility? And why this need to “police” others’ behaviors? Ashland police regularly patrol the park for infractions of park regulations. That’s their job and, from what I observe, they do it with good etiquette. If they see me and my dog, they look at his vest, they nod, and move on.

One part of the problem is the park’s approach to the dog problem in Lithia Park. In bold, on all signs we read “No Animals.” In small print and easy to miss, is an add-on: Service Dogs Allowed.

More recently, the Parks Department added sandwich boards at several key entryways with the bold heading, “Why No Dogs.” There is a vague reference to the ADA law two-thirds of the way through the text which, again, could be easy to miss and is contradicted by the heading “Why No Dogs.”

But even if the signage is confusing, even if some people are either oblivious or are scofflaws, is not civility appropriate? Could we also leave policing to the police? And could we all consider the one and all of us who love Lithia Park as just the imperfect people we are, who nonetheless deserve kindness?

Ann Beaufort