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Portland's been called the Rose City, Rip City, the Tree City and even 'The City That Works.' But our status as Dog City may be in jeopardy.

As much as we love our dogs (seven of the 12 homes on my block have one), Portland faces a serious lack of park space for unleashing our inner puppies.

Portland has only three officially designated 'dog parks' Ñ West Delta and Chimney parks in North Portland and Gabriel Park in Southwest Ñ where dogs may roam and romp off leash. For a city this size, this is simply not adequate for the recreational needs of our canine friends.

The fact that there are no dog parks in virtually the entire east side means that law-abiding dog owners must pack up their pooches (often around rush hour) and drive them miles to the closest park. Already faced with a commuting quagmire as a result of limited freeway access, crowded bridges and unpaved roads, dog-owning east siders must decide which is worse: Rover's wrath or road rage?

The situation on the west side of town typifies the other challenges this shortage creates: Overcrowding of the Gabriel Park dog area has led to wear and tear that in turn increases cleanup and maintenance costs. (The grass is now re-seeded every year.) Meanwhile, the practical reality is that other city parks are being used illegally.

Adding three more designated dog parks in other parts of the city would be a good start. Beyond that, the city should consider adding more space as it adds more people parks in the future.

Kate Brown is a state senator from Southeast Portland; she served as Democratic Senate leader during the 2001 session of the Oregon Legislature.