Dangers at the Dog Park


Grace Dousa and Natalie Naylor

Could an attempt to socialize with your dog turn costly? At Scituate’s dog park, some patrons are concerned. Constructed on the Driftway in September of 2019, the dog park hosts dogs and dog owners from all over the South Shore. The impact on community building is undeniable, as each year thousands of dogs enjoy getting some energy out while dog parents make new friends.

Though the Scituate dog park has inevitably brought positive changes to the community, Scituate dog owner Tim Horan voiced concerns about safety based on his own experience. One day, his Bernese Mountain Dog “Ollie” was throwing up, shaking, and acting lethargic. Horan said, “We took him into the Driftway veterinary clinic, which concluded he had caught a strain of kennel cough.”

Driftway Animal Hospital’s Veterinarian Manager, Leah Ames, explained how their veterinary practice has responded to local concerns: “One of the doctors went to continuing education, [and] they discovered that 80% of dog parks have parasites,” she stated. The hospital is seeing an increase in parasites and parasite-related illnesses–along with dog bites and injuries–from dogs who visit the park. Ames also noted that “some towns require the dogs to be vaccinated–ours doesn’t,” which could be problematic

Dog park regular Elaine Ojala expressed her enthusiasm for the facility, where she cherishes time with her labradoodle. Positive experiences have made her a loyal visitor. Ojala praised the addition of new wood chips and said she looks forward to social events scheduled there. Although she was unaware of a potential parasite problem at the park, she knew about some other illnesses, such as kennel cough and dog flu. Ojala enhances her own experience and safety by taking precautions: she brings her own water, and she visits the park on days when she knows there won’t be too many young children.