Humane Society offers new park for members’ dogs to make friends

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Dogs and their humans have a new place to socialize, have fun and get a workout in Indian River County.

Barny, a French Brittany spaniel, comes to the recently-opened Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County Dog Park on a nearly daily basis to burn off some energy and build up his confidence.

“He loves it,” Barny’s human, Janet Tingle said. “I use it for my own exercise, too.”

Barny is safe at the Humane Society dog park.

“There’s no pit bulls here,” Tingle said, explaining that Barny had been attacked a while ago by a pit bull.

Just as quickly as Barny and Tingle slipped into the electronic key card controlled dog park, others began to arrive.

Humane Society staff member Alisha Zaleuke showed up with Tobey and Baron leading the way. Almost instantly, Tobey and Barny began checking each other out and romping around the 2-plus-acre park.

“Tobey’s shy,” Zaleuke said – not that anyone would have known given how quickly he took to Barny. “It’s good for him to make friends.”

The Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County opened the dog park quietly late last year without announcing to the public that it was ready for visitors.

Staff members wanted to be sure that the park would be safe and work out all the logistics first.

Only those who “join” the county’s Humane Society with a $150 membership donation or more are granted access to the park – and only if their dogs pass the screening process.

Dogs must be either spayed or neutered, be properly vaccinated and wear a collar with a current license and rabies tag.

Baron, a yellow Labrador retriever Humane Society “graduate,” serves as the screener – checking each potential dog park patron for aggression and temperament.

It cost the Humane Society about $20,000 to put together the park, which is split into two areas – one for Big Paws and one for Small Paws.

Chalmers Morse, the society’s executive director, said that the expense is worth it – considering the benefits that come from the dogs having a safe place to play, the people being able to meet fellow dog and animal lovers, and the actual Humane Society.

The membership “fee” goes back to supporting the efforts of the Humane Society – helping the cats, birds, and other animals that have found shelter there.

“She has a ball,” said Debbie Kanehl of her 4 ½-year-old Chihuahua, CoCo. “And we have a ball watching her.”

“You really can’t beat the facility,” Michael Kanehl added.

The dog park has several trees planted, which will grow to provide shade. There are benches for humans and water hoses for the pooches, along with tunnels, a sand pit and other toys for the dogs to have fun with.

“It exhausts them,” Zaleuke said. “They run like mad men.”

She added that Tobey and Baron are usually so tuckered out after their visit to the park that she won’t hear a peep out of them on the ride home.

While the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County is now openly promoting the dog park, the staff does urge patience going into the rainy season. That’s because the dog park property serves another purpose – water retention.

“It’s sometimes a little bit underwater,” Morse said, which could lead to the staff closing the park for a time while the water drains.

When not closed for water, the dog park is open the same days and hours as the shelter – Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

To learn more about becoming a member of the Humane Society and the benefits that come along with that – including joining the dog park – contact the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County by calling (772) 388-3331, or visit the shelter at 6230 77th St., Vero Beach.

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