In 1953, Vondelpark was handed over by private owners to the city of Amsterdam, with the agreement that it would remain a place for dogs and people to run free, unless it became necessary to do otherwise. Stadsdeel Oud Zuid believes that the time for change has come.
On 4 October, the Stadsdeel will enact one of three new plans to impose limits in the park for dogs on and off the leash. Each plan has varying degrees of restriction, and the plan that is chosen will be tried for one year, and then evaluated.
Plan A allows dogs to run loose only in the small outer perimeter, and on leashes everywhere else. Plan B allows them freedom in the western half of the park, and restricts them to leashes in the eastern half. Plan C allows them to remain free throughout the park, except in the busy summer months when they must be leashed on the chunk of land around the Filmmuseum.
The Stadsdeel believes that the new regulations could result in a cleaner Vondelpark with less dog poop, and fewer accidents with dogs running loose. The only clear accident they cite is from 2003, when a police report was filed about a man being attacked by two dogs.
‘We don’t feel that that is a good example,’ says Heleen Jager, spokesperson for Dierenbescherming (Animal Protection). ‘Those dog owners were drunk, and to sacrifice the freedom of all dogs because of that one incident does not seem right.’
‘I walk my dogs twice a day in the Vondelpark,’ says Joyce Hes, spokesperson for Groep Hondenbezitters (Dog Owner’s Group). ‘I’ve had no confrontations and I find this wonderful in such a small space with so many people.’
Hes believes that one of the reasons for Vondelpark’s immense popularity is because of its free, open environment. ‘The Stadsdeel should support that, rather than trying to add new rules, and more police to enforce the rules.’
The Stadsdeel, however, believes they must do something because Amsterdammers have listed dogs as the second biggest irritation in Vondelpark. (Rollerskaters are number one. No plan yet to leash up the skaters.)
The undeniable reason for the irritation is dog poop. Everyone seems to agree on that point, and some people have even started placing little flags in the fecal matter that read, ‘My owner is an asshole,’ or ‘Dit is van ……..’
Amsterdam native Jeanette Kalb has been taking her dogs to Vondelpark for over 20 years. Her older dog Sterra, ‘is not comfortable leaving her “big message” with the leash on,’ Kalb says. ‘She’s been able to run off to some bush and poop in privacy all her life. And I clean it up.’
‘If everyone just picked up their shit,’ says Jager, ‘there would be far fewer problems. The stadsdeel has done nothing about this for years, so to suddenly impose such strict rules seems unfair.’ She explained that a smarter solution would be to install receptacles around the park that provide plastic baggies and places to deposit the stool.
On 24 September, at noon, the Dierenbescherming and Groep Hondenbezitters are organising a demonstration in front of the Blauwe Theehuis in Vondelpark. The exact details have not been announced, but expect several speeches by Dutch celebrities and then a march to the nearby Stadsdeel building, where they will present the wethouder with a gift.
Will it be a blazing paper bag full of hondenstront?
‘We’d rather not say at this time,’ explains Jager. ‘We want it to be a surprise.’