Several pet owners fear a Suffolk County dog park could be a breeding ground for disease after their pets fell ill shortly after playing there.
The dog enclosure at Charles Toner Park in Nesconset is a popular place where people let their pets exercise and make new friends.
However, some residents say their dogs return from the park with illnesses like kennel cough and stomach bugs. This leads to expensive veterinary bills.
Amanda Ackerly says she was terrified when her 10-month-old Australian Shepherd named Yeti developed a severe case of kennel cough. She says the pup fell ill shortly after visiting the Nesconset dog park about two weeks ago and it took about seven days before he felt better.
“I thought he was going to die, honestly. It was so bad,” Ackerly says. “I was really worried about him. I was afraid he would develop pneumonia. It was almost as if he couldn’t breathe at all. She really got lethargic.
Paul Baron says his dog developed his own case of kennel cough about two months ago and needed antibiotics. He is convinced that she caught the disease at the park, but he comes back anyway.
“I absolutely think it’s highly likely that it happened here, because that’s the only time she really associates with other dogs,” he says.
A dog park is a great place to exercise and socialize your pet, but it comes with some risks. Vet Michel Selmer has some tips for staying safe at the dog park.
It says to make sure your pet is vaccinated and to be ready to go if other dogs seem sick.
Beware of shared water bowls, puddles or other hazards, which could transmit disease.
“Keep your dog away from any poop you see or feces in the dog park. Puddles are obviously going to be a risk because another dog or wild animal could urinate and it could be in the standing water,” says Selmer.
Charles Toner Park is operated and maintained by the City of Smithtown. A city spokesperson says they have no record of any illnesses resulting from the dog pen, although they are investigating the situation.
Some other dog owners told News 12 that their pets never got sick after their visit.