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Canine playground slowly rises in farm fields of western Lima


`It will be multipurpose,' says John Heltman, executive director of the Allen County Humane Society, which is leveling four acres behind its Elida Road shelter, in the background, for use by dog owners.


LIMA, Ohio - An old farm field that sits along a creek will become a playground next year for Allen County's four-legged friends.

The county humane society is leveling four acres behind its Elida Road shelter to serve local dogs, with an enclosed area where they can run free and an agility course to test their skills.

The site will include walking trails for dogs and their owners on the west side of Lima, about 75 miles south of Toledo.

“It will be multipurpose,” said John Heltman, executive director of the Allen County Humane Society.

When completed, Allen County will have the third dog park in northwest Ohio - behind Bowling Green in Wood County and Findlay in Hancock County. Toledo does not have a park for dogs.

Mr. Heltman said the dog park probably won't open for another year while grass is planted on the grounds.

But he said the public will be able to see it tomorrow during a celebration at the shelter from 1 to 4:30 p.m. to mark its 65th anniversary.

At that time, Mr. Heltman said officials will showcase an adoption trailer they recently acquired. He said they intend to announce several programs, including plans to begin boarding dogs for the public next month. Fees will be based on the animal's weight.

Another program will allow the humane society to work with the local women's violence center and hospitals to take in pets while their owners are away and unable to care for them.

Mr. Heltman said many area shelters don't have the room to house extra pets, but he said Allen County has the space because a larger facility was built in May, 2000.

Allen County remains a leader among area humane societies with some of its new programs, as well as the plans for its own dog park, officials said.

There are 11 enclosed parks for dogs across Ohio and about 500 across the country. Most charge fees for use and require pet owners to show veterinarian records before their dogs may be admitted.

In Toledo, a group calling itself Canine Companion Zone had been working to establish a dog park in the Lucas County area. In July, 2001, that effort took a major setback.

The Toledo Area Metroparks had tentatively offered the group a four-acre portion of Secor Metropark for use as an off-leash pet park.

A week later the canine group changed its mind about the site, saying they needed something that was more centrally located. Secor Metropark is west of Toledo off Central Avenue.

The group had previously looked at land at Swan Creek Metropark, which is inside the city limits and closer to a larger number of dog users. Park officials said they did not want a dog park there, in part because some endangered plants could be harmed by increased activity.

Dori Pentecost, a member of canine companions, said yesterday that volunteers - about 70 people had signed up to work at the dog park - were saddened after their last effort failed. She said she hopes to rejuvenate the search for a dog park in Lucas County.

Nancy Peterson of the Humane Society of the United States said she is not surprised that northwest Ohio's rural areas are having more success in establishing dog parks.

She said more space is available in rural areas, which typically means fewer property owners would be affected by the building of a dog park.

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