5-19-17 AFDC Board Response to Feedback to New Pet Policy

In reference to this message shared with Summer league captains on Wednesday May 17th.

We appreciate the feedback and concerns received from AFDC membership about the new pet policy as well as the Board’s communication. We hope this document will better explain the circumstances and process around the current policy. This change clearly impacts a lot of people in our community, and we welcome continued feedback.

Unfortunately, pets not being allowed at AFDC events was not a choice made by the Board of Directors. This change came from the park’s owners. This is within their rights and as a minority partner at GSP, we have no power to change its pet policies (See below). Therefore, many of the  alternatives we’ve heard suggested are not suitable.

GSP’s decision was motivated by a pattern of negligence by pet owners attending our events, not by any one incident. We were warned many times about this, and the Board passed those warnings on to the membership.

During our discussion of this issue, it was clear that the Board would prefer to allow pets, but this would require all owners to be responsible and accountable. Recently, AFDC’s dog owners have failed to meet their responsibilities, and we must now accept the consequences for the actions of our members. The Board accepts its part in not enforcing the rules more strictly in the past.

At our last board meeting we discussed the situation at length and agreed to enforce compliance with the pet rules of all parks as written. We believe this is the only fair solution.

Timeline of events

  1. The AFDC has a long standing policy that pets must be leashed at all times.
  2. Pet owners have always pushed those rules. It was a running problem as recently as this spring.
  3. GSP has warned us on several occasions about this. Other renters have complained to them about our dogs.
  4. On April 8th, after an AFDC event at the park, we were warned that dogs were making a mess and that if we didn’t get them under control they would not be welcome back at the park.
  5. This warning was communicated to the groups that would be using the park on April 9th.
  6. Despite this, on April 9th, dogs were let off leashes and their owners did not pick up after them. GSP justifiably followed through by informing us dogs would not be allowed back at the park.
  7. This was communicated to the Board of Directors on April 9th and conversations continued for several days.
  8. Summer league registration opened for women on April 12th.
  9. The policy changes were communicated to all spring league participants and other AFDC events held at the park since.
  10. Despite the Board’s notifications, on April 15th a league participant brought their pet to GSP and an incident occurred between the pet and a person. The Board continued to discuss this for the next week.
  11. A Board meeting was scheduled for May 15th.
  12. On April 24th a group of board members were asked to look into the pet policy situation.
  13. Men’s SL registration opened on April 26th.
  14. On May 14th the group working on the pet policy reported back.
  15. The executive committee met on May 14th and the pet situation was discussed at length.
  16. The board met on May 15th and the pet policy was discussed at length.
  17. On May 16th a group worked on communicating the policy to summer league captains with the intent to send out a league wide email blast after receiving feedback.
  18. On May 17th summer league captains were informed about the new policy during their pre-SL meeting. Our intended plan was to hear their feedback first before disseminating the message to all league participants via email. Posting it on afdc.com was a technical mistake (The scheduled post was not canceled)

 Old Pet policy for reference:

Here was the pre-existing dog policy posted on afdc.com/policies on May 11th 2012. Knowing and following that is your responsibility.

“The AFDC has many members who are pet owners. If you decide to take your pet to a game please know you are responsible for the animal at all times. Please also be considerate to other players who may have different feelings/comfort levels with animals.                

  • Yield to local city or field rules/signs
  • Dogs should be leashed at all times
  • Owners are required to pick up after their pet’s “business
  • Dogs should be tied up a safe distance away from the fields of play
  • If your dog is aggressive, has a history of aggressive acts, or is easily irritated by new people and surroundings please leave them at home
  • If your dog is going to be disruptive (incessantly bark, run on the field, use the field as a bathroom) please leave them at home

It is your personal responsibility to use caution when approaching or interacting with a pet.                

Please also care for your animals by providing them with cool, shaded areas to sit and lots of water to drink.”

Frequently Asked Questions/Comments

In all the years that I’ve played in AFDC leagues, this is the first time I’ve heard of dogs being an issue.

We have dog issues almost every season and several times per year. Parks complain to us, other renters complain to us, and league participants complain to us about our pets and pet owners.

I’ve also never known AFDC to have an official policy regarding dogs.

The AFDC has had a pet policy for years. You can find our policies at afdc.com/policies.

Why not strictly enforce leash rules and only ban nuisance and dangerous dogs?

Unfortunately we are at a point where this is no longer an option. Pet owners who have abused the rules have caused this policy enforcement for everyone. We know that diligent and responsible pet owners will be punished as well. We accept that if we were stricter in enforcing our old policy and penalized pets and pet owners that broke the policy we may have been able to avoid this. While acknowledging the Board’s role in getting to this point, we ask that you keep in mind that enforcement required AFDC volunteers to confront pet owners who were breaking the rules, many of whom are our friends and teammates. Not all volunteers are comfortable with this level of confrontation. Many pet owners who were confronted in the past did not receive requests to follow the pet rules well. .

The Board of Directors doesn’t like dogs!

More than half of the Board currently have a dog or have previously owned a dog. Almost every single one of them have a pet. The head of GSP has five dogs. We love our pets and other pets too. We wanted our pets to continue being a part of our leagues. We are disappointed and unhappy about this result too.

Communication about the change to the dog policy was late.

Yes, despite our best efforts, we did not communicate this before summer league registration. As shown in the timeline above, we communicated with the membership as quickly as possible. We took this issue seriously and spent a lot of time considering all of the angles. Many of the suggestions we’ve heard in the last few days were brought up by board members in that discussion and were duly considered.

Because we understand that is late notice, we are allowing affected players to ask for a refund.

The Board voted on this? Who? What?

The only things requiring a vote by the AFDC bylaws are elections, bylaw amendments, expenditures, and removal of a member. Since we had no decision to make the Board could not vote on this anyway. What we did do was discuss the situation and agree to enforce the pet policies of the parks we use. We agreed this was necessary to ensure that we retain the ability to continue to use the parks, including GSP and City of Atlanta fields.

We are partners at GSP. Push back!

As a minority owner, we do not control enough votes to enact any policy changes. We can only have discussions and hope to persuade our partners with our arguments. They have final say.

I’ll pay additional money to bring my dog!

This is not a problem that can be solved with money. The owners and employees of the parks have confirmed that they do not want to clean up after other people’s pets, regardless of whether there is additional compensation..

Have captains help police teams to ensure dog owners are cleaning up after their dogs

Captains have been asked to help enforce the old pet policy (on a leash at all times). For many seasons this has proven an unreliable method of enforcement. As stated above, it is often difficult for our volunteers to directly confront teammates and friends, especially when it means potentially sending a player home or otherwise curbing their participation.

We could try to limit dogs to specific areas?

Pet areas require additional regulations and resources we and the parks are not equipped to enact or implement. Any area would need to be monitored at all times. Owners could not drop off their pet and then go play games.               

What about requiring tests for dogs before being allowed at the fields or registering dogs?

We do not have the resources or institutional knowledge to implement a license/registry program, maintain a database, or easily verify dogs who are in good standing.

The policy especially does not work for summer league which is played on weekday evenings. Most dogs have been lonely and cooped up all day.

Previous behavior of pet owners, including allowing pets to run around and exercise, were violations of the pre-existing rules and part of why the rules are now being enforced against us at GSP. Unfortunately, the requirements to care for a dog are not factors GSP or AFDC can consider at this time. We understand that league makes it difficult to exercise dogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we hope that our members can find a way to continue to play.

What about a dog chairperson?

Again this is no longer an option. We do not believe having a single person to oversee all fields and dogs could be successfully implemented. It would require someone to take responsibility for all fields for all nights of all leagues and tournaments. If you have ever been at GSP during a lightning delay then you know how difficult it is to get play to stop on all fields. It takes minutes for the message to pass between fields or someone running between the farthest fields. This person is always met with resistance and often harsh remarks or is outright ignored.

Is this ban forever?

We have no control over City of Atlanta policies. We will continue to have a dialogue with GSP but accept that this policy will not change this season.  Please understand that we have no leverage if we cannot show a pattern of good behavior to restore trust and allow the preferential treatment we enjoyed for many years. Also know that if pets are allowed back our policies and practices will be very different than before. We may choose to use some of the solutions addressed above.

Refund Form (Submissions are due by May 30th)

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