There will be no dog park in Martin Luther King Park in south Minneapolis. The opposition to the dog run expressed by some African Americans made me wonder if Dr. King ever expressed any feelings about dogs. Did the use of police dogs by southern law enforcement to attack civil rights protesters make him anti-dog? Would he be offended by an off-leash dog park in a park bearing his name? I’ve tried to get a response from the King Center in Atlanta, but so far I haven’t gotten one.
I posed some of those questions to a man named Bob Zellner during an interview for a dog park story I produced recently for National Public Radio. Zellner, who is white, marched with King in the 60s. He remembers seeing police dogs held at bay by officers as he and others participated in one of the Freedom Marches in Alabama. But Zellner says the dogs didn’t get him, the police officers did. He got zapped with a cattle prod and was badly beaten by the cops.
Zellner says he was surprised the dog park issue raised so much conflict.
“I don’t think that he would at all be insulted,” said Zellner. “He loved children. He spent a lot of time with children. And I could only assume, I don’t know for sure, but he must have loved dogs too.”