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Noxious weed at dog park a burr in the fur

At least by its name, houndstongue seems like the perfect plant to adorn a dog park.

But the non-native weed, which spreads easily in animal fur and is toxic to cattle, is forcing the closure of Spokane’s only dog park for two days this week as officials work to eradicate it.

The Spokane County Noxious Weed Control Board recently notified Spokane’s park department that they need to take further action to remove the plants from the SpokAnimal Dog Park at High Bridge. Houndstongue has small purple flowers and long, oval leaves not unlike the shape of hounds’ tongues.

Gail Mackie, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E.’s executive director, said two previous volunteer efforts resulted in truckloads of weeds being hauled away from the site. But the houndstongue and some other noxious weeds are back and currently in bloom. Officials say they want to remove them before they go to seed.

Herbicide will be sprayed this morning and dogs won’t be allowed back in until 8 a.m. Friday.

“We just want to err on the side of safety,” Mackie said.

David Mundt, coordinator for the weed board, said High Bridge Park is one of the worst spots in the county for houndstongue.

“It has been there for quite a few years, and it has just really taken off,” Mundt said.

The recent creation of the dog park, which opened in January, has made the problem a bigger priority.

That’s because the weed spreads through burrs that attach to animal fur. Since dogs at the park are coming from throughout the region, the potential to spread is significant, he said.

“Prevention is much better than trying to go after it after it has been a problem,” Mundt said.

Park Director Leroy Eadie said the park department, not SpokAnimal, will pay for the spraying.

Dog owners at the park midday Tuesday said they hadn’t had problems with burrs sticking to their dogs since a volunteer effort to remove the weeds in February. The weed, however, is easily spotted in several locations and is in bloom.

Mackie said SpokAnimal may sponsor volunteer weed-pulling events, depending on the effectiveness of the spraying.

“It’s been kind of a derelict area that people and animals haven’t been spending much time at over the years,” Mackie said. “We’re just trying to take care of it.”