How City Architecture and Urban Sprawling Affect the Both Domestic Canines and Wild Animals

Looking at today’s dwellings in the United States and other similarly developed countries we can see two growing trends that mark the primary residential situations in the country. These do not include isolated residential areas or with short term tenants such as Farms, Ranches, and RV parks. The Majority of Americans live in a dense city or urban environment or in expanded outer cities that contain a network of suburban neighborhoods. I will be investigating the pro’s and con’s of these two types and their impacts on humans, wild and domestic animals, and the environment. The term “Deforestation” is generally referring to the removal of a forest or trees in order to gain access land that is then converted for non-forest use. This term often goes hand in hand with the terms “Urban/Suburban Sprawling, Urbanization, and Suburbanization” which all generally describe the continual expansion of human populations away from the central areas (Cities) into wide-spread, vehicle dependent communities or suburban cities. These suburban cities are the most apparent as you fly over any part of southern California and every year developers are creating more of these cookie cutter homes. Why? There is a high demand for large homes because our society teaches us that our possessions is what measures our wealth and worth. The perpetuation of a pure capitalist mind set is what is allowing the continuation of development. It is because of this deforestation and urban sprawl that non domesticated animals are forced out of their natural habitat and stumble into residential areas and road ways in search of food, shelter, and water. There is however, another side to this coin. Due mostly to greed and unfounded fear, apartments in the more congested city areas are extremely expensive and often have animal restrictions. This would mean those living in this area would be less likely to have as many if any domestic animals. This also means those who already have domestic pets (particularly dogs) are less likely to move to the inner city. These cookie cutter homes provide certain features that the city residential buildings fall short of. These features include greater privacy, greater sense of safety, and obviously more room for families and pets. Majority of those who live in the suburbs are a member of a larger family and are much more likely to have larger domestic animals, namely larger dog breeds. The human death rate has decreased significantly since the introduction to modern medicine which means there are more people to house. Architects are faced with the problem of developing solutions to humanely, ethically, and reasonable house this growing population in a sanitary residential dwelling that will not add to the growing issue of deforestation and global warming.This issue is particularly complicated because the number of variables involved. Just as there is not one clear variable there is not one clear solution either. I will be tackling the subject by investigating the works of urban designers, polling individuals and pet owners, and defining several core issues. Physical issues, cultural issues, legal issues and economic issues. Finally I will briefly explore several possible solutions I discussed with several licensed Architects.

According to Howard Frumkin, author of “Urban Sprawl and Public Health”, the act of developing these suburban cities negatively effect the lives of people and animals. Sprawling is essentially the lowering of proximity meaning the area has fewer destinations and less variety of uses. Zoning laws that only allow for a single use for certain areas are called Euclidean Zoning laws. In one way they ensure that residential buildings are not built next to industrial building which is one positive aspect. They however, also perpetuate the sprawling issue by not allowing or restricting the creation or adaption of multi-use buildings, such as a living space above a business. The zoning laws set up a scenario in which people are dependent on motorized vehicles to travel to work, school, the store, and malls. This means that the road ways often need to be expanded to account for the greater amount of traffic. This expansion also cuts into the natural environment, leaves oils and other debris on the roads that ultimately ends up in the oceans and more cars in use means a greater carbon footprint. The argument is that people could use public transportation. The problem is that in wide-spread suburban cities public transportation is not only time consuming and unreliable it is also uneconomical. There is simply not enough passengers to make it worth while. “In one study, in the Seattle area, automobile commuting began to decease when the employment density reached about thirty employees per acer., and dropped sharply at levels above seventy-five. A similar pattern was evident for shopping trips.”

When conducting surveys of a obscure topic like urban sprawling, which is not exactly a well known topic, I needed to make sure that the individuals I approach understood the questions that I was asking. I tried to choose a wide range of demographics to include: fellow students, clients, family, friends and a blind survey I conducted with a few random strangers online. I started with a basic questionnaire to determine which questions I should use to continue my research with. I started by creating five categories in which I can place a person. These are: have pets/live in home, have pets/live in city, don’t have pets/live in home, don’t have pets/ live in city, and finally don’t have pets but wants a pet/ lives in city. For this study I focused primarily on dogs due to the fact that they require more attention, space and training. Those who did not have pets and did not want pets were then used as a conflict group (a group of people with opposing view points). I formulated sets of questions to ask both the pro-pet group and the anti-pet group to get a general understanding of what their thought processes were without giving them insight to my own opinions. I then went on to interview several architects to learn about their opinions in regards to the effects that dense cities and suburban cities have on domestic and wild life. I had written out my questions and recorded each architect has he or she responded after hearing the question for the first time. Urban sprawling is an issue, I think, many architects and urban designers are looking at right now. The problem has more to do with a social anxiety spurred on by the idea of conforming to the denser cities and having less space and privacy. Architect’s now have to consider how to design a building or community that will attract those who are accustomed to suburban sprawl. The challenge is to essentially change the mindset of an entire generation to slowly pull back into the cities. I grew up in a suburban area in Texas. The state of Texas is one of the biggest offenders in regards to the development of sprawling communities. I grew up having to take a 40 minute bus ride to school every morning because my “city” didn’t have a high school. I have lived in California for seven years now and I realized how ridiculous that is and the waste it created. I am also however not interested in living downtown even though I know it is better for the environment. I took a course in Urban planning and arrived at the conclusion that city living needs to be feasible for people with many different life styles and the animals that accompany them.

Of the one hundred people I polled, I learned that the percentage of those who lived in the suburbs and had pets was nearly equal to the percentage of people who lived in the city and wanted to have pets. Which I found to be an interesting coincidence. I asked each person I polled these key questions.

  1. Do you have a dog or other large pet?
  2. Would you consider moving to the downtown area with your pet?Why or why not?
  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a larger pet in the city?
  4. Would you describe the area in which you live to be “city” or “suburban”?
  5. Would you consider getting a large pet (such as a dog) while living at your current address? Why or why not?
  6. What are your feelings about sharing a wall or fence with an animal?
  7. What are some possible improvements architects should look into in order to ease current difficulties and persuade more people with pets to live in a denser areas?

For those with dogs or large pets the common or similar answers to questions two, three are as follows:

2) No or probably not. They have a large energetic pet or multiple pets and are concerned about the lack of space, bothering neighbors or other people, the dog won’t have as much time with nature.

3)The advantages is that the pets adjust to city life if they are exposed to it early and properly trained. They have more time to walk and enjoy time with their pets because the don’t have to commute. The disadvantages is that there isn’t as many places the dog can enjoy off leash and some business still don’t allow pets.

For those living in the in an Urban environment:

5) No or probably not. They want to wait until they have either a larger home with a yard or more time to dedicate to the animal. They don’t currently have the time or money to walk and train any animals.

6) I don’t care or it is bothersome. Some people shared that they had allergies to pet dander, a fear of dogs or specific dog breeds, and others expressed a general distaste for the noise and smells that certain pets created.

Finally the responses given by all volunteers polled:

7) Many people requested more semi-private and gated pet facilities. Others requested regulations be made about only allowing large or energetic pets on the bottom floor to reduce the noise issue. Many pet owners requested more pet friendly spaces around the city.

Additionally I interviewed several architects with a separate list of questions.

  • What are your general thoughts on centralization into cities verses urbanization?

Katherine Herbst: “I’m a big fan of densifying. I think the further out we spread the more impact we have on resources, the more impact we have on the habitat… its a general degradation of the environment,” “fuel, garbage, sewage.. gets harder to manage, I think the further spread out you are the more difficult it is to manage all these services.”

  • How do you believe each impacts the wild life? And the domestic animals?

Katherine Herbst: “I am really interested in is how wild life actually adapts to urbanization… There are creatures who are incredibly adaptive,” “you have to understand that animals are wild, they are not pets and they are not toys and they have just as much right to this world as we do,” ” San Diego has a great multiple species quarter act that allows animals to move from the coast to the mountains in a sort of uninterrupted landscape. I think that’s a pretty smart way to plan a city”

Domestic: ” I think there is adaptation that happens,” “I think its a question of how you want to interface with the animals.. people adjust to urban settings if their life choice is to still have animals,” “I think we anthropomorphize. We think that a dog can’t be in a city because there is no place for it to run. But I think that’s our reading of them.”

  • Is this more of a physical or social issue?

Hector Perez: ” the questions is more about how how we legislate the breeding of animals.. we have to at least teach people the differences that their decisions make,” “We need to control the population as much as possible so that we treat those that are born as humanely as possible,” “

  • Your thoughts on how we, as architects, can better accommodate those who do choose to have large breeds or multiple pets?

Hector Perez: ” I think areas for dog parks… are hugely important. On a smaller scale the way we design our living units to be made up of materials that are resilient, sound abatement in between floors when you have stacking units so that their paws don’t make as much sound,” ” I have a building down the street and I have been pretty open with letting people bring their pets until recently it’s become and issue of sound when you have a little… hyperactive animal,” “In retrospect I should have thought better to say animals..pets should not be allowed on the second floor… Having a pet in a carpeted [area] as become a huge problem”

I am defining issues to be those that involve physical space, resources, and health. I believe the most outstanding issue between centralizing and sprawling is a social or cultural resistance. I feel that term would umbrella over most of our impact on our environment. I believe if breeders were limited to a number of puppies per year they were allowed to produce, if “puppy mills” were shut down for being inhumane and if pet owners were held to a higher accountability of their pets, domesticated animals would not have to suffer or be negatively impacted by the centralization or densification or our existing cities. I believe architects, urban planners, and engineers can develop a reasonable living accommodations for families and pet owners if we begin to offer more interest in multi-use buildings and loosen the euclidean zoning laws.