GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A popular nature center with hundreds of acres of land may soon ban visitors from bringing dogs onto the property.
Blandford Nature Center President and CEO Jason Meyer said almost on a daily basis, the center receives complaints about unleashed dogs, and management is considering banning all dogs from coming onto their grounds unless they see change.
“We have had dogs run up into groups of school children and summer campers and that is terrifying for some children who aren’t around dogs in their daily lives," said Meyer. "Knocking them over, fights with other dogs.”
Blandford Nature Center and Highlands is covered with signs that say 'Dogs must be on a leash at all times,' a rule enforced across its nearly 300 acres of land, but not always followed.
It's Michigan law to keep pet dogs on a leash when off your own property. Grand Rapids has its own ordinance too, which states dogs off their owners' property need to be on a leash no greater than six feet long.
“I find it really hard to believe that people don’t know that," said Meyer. "It’s something that’s common knowledge.”
Meyer said the center is considering an all-out ban on dogs if management doesn't see improvements. He said it's about safety, knowing first-hand the damage a dog can do.
“A few years ago, my daughter Sophie was at a family friend's home, sitting on the floor playing by herself, and the [family friend's] dog up and attacked her," said Meyer. "Now, this was a dog we knew. She would have never hurt a gnat, according to the owners, and I probably would have said that."
Meyer said what followed after his daughter was attacked by a dog were lawsuits, trying to get money from insurance, several plastic surgeries, and stress that he doesn't want any of the visitors to ever go through.
“It’s not a dog park," said Meyer. "We’re a nature center.” There are signs around the park that also let visitors know where the closest dog park is.
Blandford Nature Center management hopes reaching out to the community will resolve the issue, people will leash their animals and dogs will remain welcome.
There is not a timeframe of when a dog ban could be put in place, but it could happen very soon if people don't start to follow the law and the nature center rules.
“I just don’t want anything to happen to anyone here on our property because of this," said Meyer.