Dogs may be adorable to their owners, but they are not so beautiful to the many Villagers who aren’t thrilled with the canine companions.
The Amenity Authority Committee’s decision to put up “no trespassing” signs at the future home of the First Responders Recreation Center has miffed dog owners who had been using the property to let their dogs roam and do their business. The controversy had reignited the long festering war between dog lovers and those who, let’s say, are not so fond of the four-legged friends.
The AAC has in recent history agreed to spend residents’ amenity money to improve conditions for Villagers and their dogs. Earlier this year, the AAC agreed to spend $130,000 for a shade structure at the Mulberry Dog Park. In 2017, the AAC agreed to spend $3,000 to add golf cart parking at an adhoc dog park at a retention basin near UF Health The Villages Hospital.
However, dog owners in The Villages have long complained that dog parks and welcoming green space are in short supply for their furry friends. There is no official count, but dogs are thought to number in the tens of thousands in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
Tempers have frequently boiled over and led to arrests in incidents involving dogs:
• Kenneth Frischman Rudlin, of the Village of Osceola Hills at Soaring Eagle, was arrested at the Atlas-Canine Dog Park on Moyer Loop in the Village of Pine Ridge. Another Villager had taken his two dogs to the dog park and one of his dogs took a ball from Rudlin’s dog, according to an arrest report from the Fruitland Park Police Department. Rudlin hit the other man’s dog with a two-foot long Chuck It ball launcher. The other man tried to break up the fight between the dogs when Rudlin “turned his attention to him” and began striking the other man with the ball launcher. Rudlin, a native of New York, landed behind bars on a felony charge.
• A Villager charged with displaying a gun during a dispute over a dog in the Village of Fenney scored a lucky break when he was sentenced to probation and community service. Martin Lewis Levine had been arrested after a verbal altercation with another individual whose dog was running loose. During the argument, Levine raised his shirt, displaying a black handgun, according to an arrest report from the Wildwood Police Department. He reportedly used profanity when he threatened to shoot the dog owner in the head. It was witnessed by several people. Levine was later arrested in another incident and that case is still pending in court.
• A dispute over dog excrement led to the arrest of a Villager in 2017 after he attacked another Villager who was walking his dog in the Village of Liberty Park. The attacker told law enforcement he “just snapped.”
• A Village of Pennecamp woman was arrested in 2017 after she slapped another woman over barking dogs. The Villager who slapped the other woman appeared to have been drinking and resisted arrest when law enforcement arrived on the scene.
Many Villagers have run afoul of Community Standards by putting signs in their yards warning dog owners to stay off their property. A Village of Dunedin woman pleaded for help from the Community Development District 10 Board of Supervisors because she said her home’s corner lot was being used as a neighborhood “toilet” for dogs. She was forced to remove a sign asking dog owners to respect her property after a deed compliance case was lodged over the illegal sign.
The Villages District Office offers this guidances to dog owners:
“Please be considerate of others and all properties. Dog owners are responsible for picking up after their pets. Please take all waste home for disposal. Do not use storm drains, postal or recreation facilities for disposing of solid waste or plastic bags. In addition, please follow all county ordinances including all dogs are required to be on a leash.”
Dog parks in The Villages are available at these locations:
- Paradise Park – east side of the golf cart bridge on the Historic Side of The Villages
- Mulberry – Belle Meade Circle adjacent to the fitness trail near the Village of Springdale
- Brinson/Perry – 1231 Bonita Boulevard
- Atlas Canine Recreation Park – 3513 Moyer Loop (South of County Road 466A)
- Dudley Canine Park – 2470 Fenney Way (South State 44)
- Rubert Canine Park – 5743 Parkyn Path (South of State Road 44)