Iowa City resident proposes dog community center

A local real-estate agent proposed a dog community center for Iowa City after he realized he did not know how to keep his dog active during the harsh winters.


Tate Hildyard

Contributed photo.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

As the snow falls and temperatures drop, dog owners in Iowa City may struggle to find ways to keep their dog active in the winter months, a problem one area resident is attempting to solve.

Phil O’Brien, dog owner and Iowa City real-estate agent, has proposed the building of a canine community center for people to take their dogs to when outdoor conditions are less than ideal. The idea came to him last year during the polar vortex, when his dog was forced to stay inside.

The community center will have a full-service restaurant, an open supervised park area, an indoor track, a multipurpose facility, collaboration areas, a pool, and a retail area, O’Brien said.

The center will have staff who supervise the dogs, he said, while owners do other things. Supervisors will be trained in first aid and be able to teach behaviors to the dog, such as how to sit better and follow commands, O’Brien added.

Collaboration spaces will be a pet-friendly section for people with home businesses that want an office space without having to leave their dog at home, he said. The inclusion of a dining area aims to involve the community in the space as well, O’Brien said.

“So if you go out on Friday night, you don’t want to leave your dog at home [and] you know that they’re going to be there,” O’Brien said.

Dog owners can purchase full memberships, day passes, or punch cards to use the amenities offered at the center, he said.

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Diving and swimming therapy will be offered at the pool, as well as agility courses that will be open for regional and national events, he said. The multipurpose area can be used for CPR training and educational training for pets. The retail locations can be used for similar purposes or services animals, O’Brien said.

In order to start construction on the project, a city code must have a text amendment that would allow for animal-related commercial establishments in the zoning area the property is located in, said Ray Heitner, an associate planner for the City of Iowa City.

The property is in a Highway Commercial zone, located at 2513 N. Dodge St. The city staff has reviewed the site plan, Heitner said, which was then reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission at its Jan. 16 meeting.

The commission recommended approval for the text amendment to the Iowa City City Council, he said. The council will vote on the amendment at its Feb. 18 meeting, once a public hearing is held.

“It’s a good project and I think the Planning and Zoning Commission was supportive of it last week,” Heitner said. “So I think getting it could be a real asset for the city.”

Iowa City resident and dog owner Brady Curran said it can be difficult to get his dog out in the winter because the salt on the sidewalk can hurt an animal’s pads on its paws.

His dog also has arthritis, which can be affected by the icy temperatures and the ice covered sidewalks also make it so pet owners need to take care while they walk their dog, he said.

“Overall, I’d say it increases socialization for you as the human connecting with other people, giving your dog that time that it deserves to exercise,” Curran said.

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