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Dog Statue Has Its Day at Park -- With Controversy

August 14, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

The howling being heard at the Silver Lake dog park Wednesday wasn't coming from the canines chasing one another across the exercise area.

It was coming instead from animal owners who were unhappy with an unusual sculpture erected at the park as a tribute to pets killed by atomic bombs in World War II.

"In Memory of All Dogs Killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki," read the engraved plaque beneath a statue of a dog sitting atop four Roman columns.

Los Angeles parks administrators and city officials were puzzled by the unauthorized statue, apparently erected in secret. Neighbors reported seeing four people unloading it from a cart shortly before 10 p.m. on Aug. 5.

Some pet owners who use the tiny park next to Silver Lake Boulevard were outraged.

"It's a political statement. It doesn't belong in the park," Ray Singer said as his chow mix and German shepherd sniffed at the statue. "It's an antiwar statement. This is the wrong venue for this sort of thing."

Others wondered if the strange memorial was part of a reality television show, with a hidden camera filming onlookers' reactions and a microphone inside the dog statue recording their comments.

Parks officials were certainly getting an earful.

"We've got everybody calling us about it. It's not a good thing. A lot of people don't like it," said LaVerne Thenarse, a recreation assistant at the Silver Lake Recreation Center.

Workers at park headquarters were checking files to see whether the waist-high memorial had a permit. It didn't.

"If someone wants to apply for a permit for it they can," said Jane Kolb, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Recreation and Parks. "Our Planning and Construction Division has to approve it. Then it has to go to the Cultural Affairs Commission for public art, and then to the parks board."

Those placing approved statues on city parkland must pay for the artwork's future maintenance, she said.

At the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, resource center librarian Yoko Okunishi wondered whether the statue might be a memorial to Japanese dog breeds such as shiba or akita.

The statue apparently was made of plaster. Because when park workers showed up shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday to confiscate it, it shattered.

No microphone was found in the pieces.

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