City finds some residents letting dogs run free, ‘degrade’ gravesites at Lawrence cemetery

A man walks through Lawrence's Oak Hill Cemetery with a dog on a leash, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. The city parks and recreation department recently has received complaints about people allowing their dogs to run off leash in the cemetery.

It seems some residents have been visiting Lawrence’s Oak Hill Cemetery not to honor the dead, but to let their dogs run off leash.

Parks and Recreation Director Derek Rogers said the department received two complaints this week from residents who had seen people letting their dogs — sometimes multiple at once — run around the cemetery. Rogers said letting a dog off leash in the cemetery is prohibited as well as disrespectful.

“People need to be respectful of those buried there and the people that come to visit,” Rogers said.

Oak Hill was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. The 60-acre cemetery is located on the eastern edge of Lawrence and continues to be used for burials. The cemetery is the resting place of some of the victims of Quantrill’s Raid, veterans from as far back as the Civil War, as well as several historic local figures.

Rogers said both the people who complained this week about dogs being allowed to run off leash were upset and saw it as a lack of respect. He said he agrees it is poor etiquette, and that the department is trying to address the complaints.

“If a dog raises its leg on a headstone, that’s degrading the headstones and that’s a problem,” Rogers said. “If they have them on a leash they can be more respectful.”

The cemetery is one of three owned by the city and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department. Rogers said cemetery maintenance workers have found bagged dog poop left on the ground in the cemetery even though there are trash cans. He said he wants to remind people that all trash, including dog waste, needs to be placed in the trash cans provided.

Rogers said the department is working on posting signs to remind cemetery visitors that dogs must be leashed at all times and that visitors should clean up after themselves and their pets. For those who want to let their dogs run off leash, Rogers said there are two designated areas within the city to do so.

“If you want to run your dog off leash we have a really big dog park out at Clinton Lake and we also have a dog park in North Lawrence,” Rogers said.

It is against city ordinance to allow dogs, cats or other animals to run free. Animals must be leashed and under the owner’s physical control at all times, according to the ordinance.

Mutt Run dog park, 1330 East 902 Road, is more than 30 acres and is located on property leased from the U.S. Corps of Engineers below the Clinton Lake Dam. There is a second dog park at the Riverfront Park, located at the intersection of North Second Street and Highways 24 and 40. Rules for use of the dog parks are located on the city’s website,