Patrons of the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market will have to leave their dogs at home when a ban on pets goes into effect August 1.

Patrons of the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market will have to leave their dogs at home when a ban on pets goes into effect Aug. 1.

Concerns over food, human and pet safety led to the ban, which will apply to all three markets — Tuesday at the Ashland Armory, Thursday at the Medford Armory and Saturday in downtown Ashland, organizers said.

"The market has had a few problems with dogs — dogs pooping in the aisles, peeing on people's products," said Teri White, a member of the market's board of directors. "We've had dog fights."

Earlier this year, an ambulance had to be called after a woman at the Medford market became tangled in her dog's leash and fell, White said.

Oregon law also prohibits dogs from coming within 20 feet of food, board president Mike Curtis said.

"When you go into a grocery store, you don't expect to have animals walking down the aisle," he said.

In addition to people tripping over leashes, he's also seen parents fearful of their kids walking by strange dogs, Curtis said.

"We get a few complaints each market," White said. "I think the board was concerned about safety issues."

The board voted 8-1 to enact the ban, which does not apply to service dogs, said White, who cast the dissenting vote.

If they were going to institute a ban, White thought the board should have waited until next season to give customers plenty of notice, she said.

Tracy Harding, manager of the Saturday market, said she and weekday market manager Mary Ellen DeLuca are distributing fliers to let shoppers know about the change.

The fliers ask people to leave their pets at home instead of in their cars to avoid animals overheating, Harding said.

Before the board voted, Harding spoke to managers of markets with animal prohibitions, including the Portland Farmers Market, which banned pets from the crowded Wednesday and Saturday events starting this year.

Some of the markets bar animals completely, while others enforce a no-pets rule on certain days or during peak hours, she said.

"The general response I heard from them was that attendance increased rather than decreased and there was more appreciation than complaint," Harding said.

More than half of the markets in Oregon have banned dogs, Curtis said. "So we're just kind of following suit."

Starting June 1, the Grants Pass Growers Market banned canines "because the dogs and their issues were completely out of control," market manager Marti Fate said.

The reaction has been mostly positive, she said, and while the market has lost some customers, it has gained others, including more elderly people and parents with young children.

Board member White sells produce at the Rogue Valley markets and said she enjoys having dogs there.

"I feel like it's an event, and part of it is having animals there," she said. "I would hope that the people who have dogs would still come to the market and buy local produce."

The Tuesday market will lose at least one customer, said Bill Greenstein, a 22-year Ashland resident who lives near the Armory.

Almost every week he walks to the market with his dog Murphy and spends about $50, he said.

"He's very popular. Everyone likes Murphy," he said. "People like to go with their dogs."

A few owners are probably irresponsible with their dogs, but he's never seen a problem, Greenstein said. "Ninety-nine percent of them are well-behaved and on leash."

The market is an asset to the community, but since its inception has grown and extended its season, Greenstein said, adding that he looks at the issue from a neighborhood point of view.

"(The market is) way bigger and way more intrusive than it was initially represented to be," he said. "It's a residential neighborhood. It's in our neighborhood. Don't think it's not without an impact.

"If Grants Pass wants to ban dogs at the market, that's fine. But this is Ashland," he said. "If the growers market got so fancy and so commercial that you can't take your dog there, then I'm not so sure I want to go."

Reach Rubenthaler at 482-3456 ext. 225 or krubenthaler@dailytidings.com.