DEAR JOAN: I am hoping you can help increase awareness of a problem that seems to be steadily growing at various dog parks. This involves parents bringing young children into the dog park despite signs clearly outlining regulations to the contrary.

The general age minimum seems to be 8 and over. However, these parents routinely ignore the rules, often even after stopping to read them. We dog owners frequently see anything from babies being held or in strollers, toddlers clearly struggling to stay upright even without dogs running by, and children tossing a ball or Frisbee to one another and screeching as they run and play.

Dogs play at the Los Gatos Creek County Dog Park in Campbell.
Dogs play at the Los Gatos Creek County Dog Park in Campbell. (Nhat V. Meyer/San Jose Mercury News)

Most of us dog owners -- and many of us also are parents -- stand there aghast at the risk they are exposing their children to. Many of us have tried to approach these people and kindly explain about the dangers and most of us have been rudely dismissed.

I have written to the Danville officials about this issue at Hap Magee Dog Park, which is especially frustrating as there is a beautiful children's park adjacent to the dog park. I received a polite reply that there was nothing they could do. However, a few weeks later, a large sign was placed just inside the entry to the dog park that clearly stated the limitations of children being there.

Sadly, the same people who ignored the smaller sign continued to ignore the larger one. Now that Hap Magee is closed for the winter, many of us are going to Memorial Park in San Ramon, but we find the same situation with children.

A number of us are very upset about this. We know that if anything were to happen to any of these children, their parents likely would not hesitate to sue us or the city.

These people need to understand that a dog park is not a petting zoo or a place to "get their children used to being around dogs." We, as dog owners, have a right to have a place to allow our dogs to run freely without fear of a small child being injured. There is absolutely no reason, living in an area with an abundance of children's parks, that parents should rationalize exposing their children to such risk and depriving our dogs a place to freely run and play.

Denise Lester

Danville

DEAR DENISE: Can you imagine the outrage if you let your dog run off leash in a children's park because you wanted him to get used to being around children?

Even the most mild-mannered dog can snap and bite if her ears are tugged or his eye accidentally poked. Children could get knocked down and hurt by the dogs running with abandon, and a child running and screaming in play can agitate the dogs and increase the chance of them biting.

In addition to the physical danger, young children may become frightened if a large dog, even a friendly one, comes bounding up to them. You may be creating an unhealthy fear of dogs and all animals.

Please, parents, let your children play in peace in their parks and let the dogs play in theirs.

New blog

I'm really happy to announce that Animal Life now has a blog. I'll be posting news and tidbits, and this is the perfect place to have a conversation at blogs.mercurynews.com/pets.

If you have a picture of a bug, bird or beastie you can't identify, I'll be posting them there, too. Come join the fun.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com.