Editorials

Two dogs have fallen to their deaths from KC rooftop park. Why wasn’t safety improved?

Sara Roth’s memories of her Goldendoodle dog Teddy

Sara Roth’s Goldendoodle, Teddy, was playing at the rooftop Green Roof Park near One Light tower in downtown Kansas City. Teddy leaped over a wall and fell to his death on the sidewalk below. Roth shared this video of her good times with Teddy.
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Sara Roth’s Goldendoodle, Teddy, was playing at the rooftop Green Roof Park near One Light tower in downtown Kansas City. Teddy leaped over a wall and fell to his death on the sidewalk below. Roth shared this video of her good times with Teddy.

Operators of a Kansas City rooftop park where two dogs have plunged to their deaths in front of horrified onlookers are big believers in signs. They thought signs requiring that dogs be on a leash were enough to keep them safe.

But they ignored an even more obvious sign that the downtown park was unsafe after the first dog leapt onto a short ledge and fell to his death on the sidewalk below in 2017. In response, the park operators did nothing but make their warning signs larger.

In June of that year, Patrick Cardona’s “copilot” and “best friend,” a lab mix named Brutus, jumped on the ledge and over, trying desperately but failing to backpedal to safety.

“I can hear his scream,” Cardona told KSHB-TV at the time.

Two years later, the same wretched scenario has played out all over again at the park near One Light tower.

Sara Roth’s rambunctious 8-month-old Goldendoodle Teddy was playing with a friend of Roth’s on July 21 at the Green Roof Park when he jumped over the same 3-foot-8-inch wall and, like Brutus, tumbled down to the sidewalk below.

Why in the world did it take the public park’s overseers — The Cordish Companies and the city of Kansas City — two years and two deaths to agree to make the facility safe for dogs, which they say they intend to do now? Though technically a grassy event space with a special fenced enclosure for unleashed dogs, it’s been informally used as a dog park, becoming a popular gathering spot for canines and their humans.

Now a second dog owner has been left utterly heartbroken.

Roth didn’t have to see the image of her Teddy dying on the sidewalk, as her dear friend did, in order to be haunted by it, as her friend sure is. It’s made Roth sleepless. And she’s heard from a Minnesota family who did see it happen while visiting the park — and they tell her it has also kept them up at night.

“It’s really hard to think about because he was my baby,” Roth, a lifelong dog lover, told The Star. Every time she does think about it, she cries. “Knowing that it happened before is extremely frustrating, and it made me sick to my stomach.”

Roth, 29, has put cherished family dogs down after long and happy lives. This is so much different. She hesitates to even try to find the words to describe this experience, but quickly comes upon “gut-wrenching,” “traumatic” and “horrific.”

After Brutus’ plummet in 2017, Power & Light District developer Cordish Companies, which own the One Light luxury apartments, issued a statement expressing their sympathies for Cardona but adding that “there is only a limited fenced interior area on the rooftop park that is available for dogs to be off-leash. Any other areas on the rooftop park are not intended for off-leash use.”

True enough. But that’s ignoring reality. Communal green spaces by their very nature are meant to be fun. And dogs, by their very nature, want to bound about untethered. It’s awfully hard not to let them, and Roth and others say plenty of owners do.

Signs or no signs, these tragedies were both foreseeable and preventable. Dogs and low-slung barriers are a dangerous combination, whether on the ground or several stories in the air. And when an alluring park summons, parents and dog owners have both the inclination and the right to assume it’s safe for kids and pups.

As for leashes, local lawyer and animal advocate Lauren Sierra Kruskall notes of her 100-pound German shepherd, “If he feels like running, I don’t stand a chance of holding him.”

Merely making the warning signs larger, which was done after the first death, was woefully and unforgivably short of what was called for. Indeed, Cordish Vice President of Development Nick Benjamin says the company and city have now agreed to split the cost of an estimated $20,000 to $25,000 7-foot barrier around the park, which sits on top of a parking garage. He said it would take two to three weeks to begin construction and three to four weeks to finish it.

Why did it take so long? “After one incident in 10 years, it was not clear that there was a high likelihood of future incidents,” one official says.

On the contrary. One death was, in fact, enough. Dogs will be dogs. One jumps, another is sure to follow.

Legal liability is always a possibility in such cases, and in this case, it’s likely city taxpayers would share in it as the actual owner of the park. Still, Roth isn’t seeking blame, only protection for other dogs, owners and perhaps children.

“I just feel like it’s an easy fix,” she says. “It should be done today.”

She’s being exceedingly kind. It should have been done years ago.

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