Our View: Thursdays on First should be dog-free
Now that the festival season is in full swing, we offer our readers a common-sense admonition: Leave your dog at home.
Most of our local festivals (with the exception of service dogs for disabled people) have restrictions on dogs and other pets on their grounds. Rochesterfest, which ended its 10-day run on Sunday, doesn't allow dogs unless they're involved in an event such as the Dachsund Dash.
The Olmsted County Fair, scheduled for July 23-29, bans dogs on its grounds unless they're part of an exhibit. Dogs are allowed on the fair campgrounds but must be leashed and under full control of the owner. The Down by the Riverside concert series, which begins its 22nd season on Thursday, doesn't allow dogs after 3 p.m. in Mayo Park on the day of a performance.
One exception is Thursdays on First, the summer market and musical festival that averages 15,000 to 20,000 visitors every week during its June-through-August season.
"Our Policy Committee decided to allow dogs and leave it to the owners' primary responsibility," said Melissa Schmid, event director for the Downtown Business Alliance that oversees Thursdays on First. "I've never seen a problem with people having dogs in the event zone, although I personally wouldn't bring my own dog."
For those who choose to bring their pet to Thursdays on First, Schmid said, "We do like to have people have their dogs on a leash."
While we understand the customer-friendly conclusion by the Thursdays on First Policy Committee, we believe they should reconsider that decision. Other festivals have placed restrictions on dogs for good reason.
Bringing a dog to unfamiliar territory surrounded by thousands of strangers puts the animal in a stressful situation. The potential for the dog — no matter how well trained and behaved — to react unpredictably increases exponentially. The dog easily could become startled by the crowds or feel threatened when encountering another dog. Even when leashed, a larger dog can knock down unsuspecting children or make passers-by uncomfortable. Believe it or not, not everyone likes dogs.
If you want to get your dog out for some needed exercise, a festival is not the place to do it. There are plenty of parks, trails and other green spaces in Rochester. There are two dog parks in town, with plans for a third to open in 2014.
Festivals are a wonderful way to connect with our community, but do everyone a favor and leave the four-legged members of the family at home.
And we hope it goes without saying that a fireworks display is no place for a dog.