From dog parks to pet-friendly cafes and so-called yappy hours, many businesses and developers are increasingly embracing pooches in the public sphere. Eugene, Oregon, seems to be moving in the opposite direction: Last week, the City Council approved a trial dog ban in the central part of the city’s downtown. Critics of the ban, however, say it’s not as much about dogs as the people who come with them — particularly the homeless.
The ban was approved 6-2, and will expire in November unless the council votes to extend it, the Register-Guard reports. It does not apply to dog owners who work or live in central downtown.
Council members who voted for the ban cited safety, according to the paper. Several residents and employees have reportedly testified about encountering aggressive dogs. But dissenting members argued that it was aimed at “displacing downtown loiterers, who frequently are accompanied by dogs.”
“It does exclude homeless people because they have nowhere to leave their dog,” Council Member Emily Semple said. “They can’t abandon it; it’s companionship, protection and warmth.”
Whatever the true motives of the ban, it’s interesting considering that the “dog-friendly” trend, like cupcakes and bike lanes, has been linked in some cities to gentrification. If the people who come with dogs also come with money, it seems, developers want to roll out a red carpet — covered in paw prints. A Washington Post story last year covered Washington D.C.’s boom in pooch-friendly amenities, from bowls left outside shops with free milk-bones to rooftop parks with stainless steel dryers for dirty fur. There, developers see “affluent professionals” with dogs as an enticing demographic.
“These days, pooches are seemingly everywhere in revitalized neighborhoods, on practically every patch of grass and pavement,” the Post reported.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.