RIPON -- This city's four-legged denizens might get to unleash and stretch out on their own spread.
The City Council tonight is scheduled to consider four possible locations for a dog park.
Once the council chooses, staff can move forward on designs and a cost estimate for the fenced park where canines would be free to socialize among themselves.
"It would provide an opportunity where dogs can go off leash and be around other dogs and get exercise if they don't have a very big yard at home," said Kye Stevens, the city's parks and recreation director, adding that the park would relieve some of the illegal off-leash roaming allowed by dog owners now.
Parkgoers have complained about unleashed dogs roaming the city's 80-acre Mistlin Sports Park on River Road and Stouffer Park on Manley Road.
The latter is among the four options for the park. That option, and a second at Harvest Park near City Hall, would be the quickest to build. Amenities such as water, parking and restrooms are there, so the park could be done within six months, Stevens said.
Two other options, both on Doak Boulevard, would take longer. One option is outside the animal shelter, and the other is west of the city corporation yard at Vera Avenue.
The news delighted Marlena Cardinal of Newman, who for three years has waged a campaign for fenced dog parks in the region. Her yellow Labrador Sophia was killed by a truck in 2004 after slipping through a fence at a pasture where Cardinal had taken her to run.
"I realized there were no safe places to take our dogs, and dogs are really an important part of the family now," Cardinal, 62, said.
"They aren't something we tie up in the back yard and throw food to. They share our homes. They share our lives," she said. "And there is a need for these parks, as the homes are getting bigger and the lots are getting smaller and people don't have the yards they used to."
She said the parks give dogs a place to release their energy and owners a place to visit. Those owners tend to be better about picking up after their pets than those who walk their dogs. She said pooches learn better manners among themselves, too.
She takes her three dogs to the park in Patterson.
"You have never seen happier dogs. They love having other dogs to interact with," she said. "They come home exhausted, so I don't have a barking issue on the days when they have gone to the dog park. They are just smiling all over and their tails are wagging."
Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 599-8760.