UC approves construction of service dog park on campus

The News Record | David Rees

The University of Cincinnati student chapter of 4 Paws for Ability has secured permission from university officials to build a dog park on campus. Now, the organization just needs funding.

4 Paws for Ability is a nonprofit based in Xenia, Ohio, that raises and trains service dogs for children and veterans worldwide. The organization was established in 1998 and has various branches at schools across the nation.

Following in the footsteps of other universities, UC’s chapter decided it was time to fund the construction of a service dog park at the university’s uptown campus. The group hopes the new park will inspire future students to focus on their own innovation and impact.

The park was recently approved by university officials and is expected to be built behind Blegen Library. Architects are ready to begin construction once funding is secured.

A dog park will be made behind Blegen Library for college students to bring their animals to play.

The organization needs $12,000 to build and operate the park. UC’s 4 Paws for Ability chapter received a $4,530 grant from the Lindner alumni association, as well as an anonymous donation of $2,000. The group is currently fundraising to gather the remaining $7,000 required.

“I have been able to witness firsthand the impact that dogs can have on the lives of humans — especially those who face unique challenges,” said event planning leader Emily Smagola, a second-year marketing, economics and international business student. “A 4 Paws for Ability service dog provides the person they are placed with more than just a companion — they give a child or veteran liberation, love, support and happiness.”

Fourth-year neuropsychology student Olivia Mullins is the president and co-founder of UC’s chapter. Today, the group has 82 students on campus who are certified handlers, as well as 14 service dogs in training.

Mullins said it is an honor to be a part of the program and encouraged other UC students to join.

“Students at the University of Cincinnati can foster one of the service dogs in training or act as a baby sitter for the local dogs,” said Mullins. “The dogs fostered by students work tirelessly as they accompany certified students like myself nearly everywhere — including classes, restaurants, stores, meetings and even football games.”

The organization’s members hope to provide a loving and safe environment for the dogs to play in. Service dogs are unable to enter regular dog parks due to risks posed by unvaccinated and aggressive dogs.

“We are unable to use UC athletic facilities, and the off-campus location we utilized in the past was recently vandalized beyond repair, leaving us without a safe location for our dogs to play and learn in off-leash,” said Mullins.

The group plans to hold multiple fundraisers throughout the year and is currently accepting donations through Mighty Cause, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. Click here to access the donation page. To get involved, students can visit the organization’s Instagram, @4pawsuc.