For Bluffton dogs, barking in a park of their own is closer than ever — with a few catches.
Bluffton Town Council on Monday night unanimously approved amended rules to a previously finalized list for the nearly completed dog park at Oscar Frazier Park. The park is expected to open in August, said Diana Radcliffe, treasurer of Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks.
The new rules prohibit glass containers as well as food of any kind, be it for humans or dogs.
Dog treats are included on the no-food list. Apparently, by dog park standards, such a rule is fairly common. Private dog parks in Sun City and The Belfair have this rule in place.
Scott Marshall, Bluffton's deputy town manager, said the rule additions are an outgrowth of comparing Bluffton's set of rules to other parks and from public input.
"We researched various model rules and this was the predominant rule," he said in a phone call Tuesday. "This (treats) has the possibility of making dogs food-aggressive and this reduces the potential for injury and liability."
Abby Bird, a local dog trainer and the owner of Alphadog Training Academy, said she pitched many of the added rules to the town.
"All dogs move toward a person with the treat," she said. "They don't know which dog it's meant for. Owners can get jumped on and knocked over. "
Other dog parks in the area, including one on Tybee Island, Ga., have exceptions for training treats. But Bird believes that exception can create a potentially dangerous environment.
"A dog park is not a training place," Bird added. "It's a play place."
Chaplin Park, the only public dog park on Hilton Head Island, does not have the no-food rule.
The new rules mean the park is a step closer to opening.
Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks, a group that raised money for the construction of the Bluffton dog park over the last decade, welcomed the news.
Friends treasurer Radcliffe said the park is "95 to 96 percent done."
"The fence is up, benches are in and water lines are installed," she said. "All that's left are memorial pavers, engraved to remember or recognize dogs, people and businesses.
Still left to do is the sign that will welcome visitors to the park and a second one that lists the finalized rules, she said.
Radcliffe has no doubt that most park users will follow the rules.
"My experience has been (dog parks) are sort of self-governing," she said.
Bird also said she doesn't expect too many problems.
"This is common sense," she said. "Anyone who understands dogs knows it's negligent to ignore these rules."
The dog park will be separated into three sections: one for small dogs, one for large dogs and one for quiet or senior dogs. There will also be water fountains, both for dogs and their thirsty owners.
The Friends also thanked the volunteers who helped make the park happen.
"We like to make sure people know we appreciate their help," Radcliffe said. "We couldn't have done this without them."