S.F. dog walkers upset about new restrictive leash laws

The Associated Press
Monday May 13, 2002

Pet lovers plan to take complaints to Board of Supervisors’ meeting 


SAN FRANCISCO – Dog walkers are upset about a plan to make leash laws and fenced-in pooch areas more strict at city parks, and they plan to take up the issue Monday with the Board of Supervisors. 

The city’s Recreation and Park Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to begin creating pens bordered by chain-link fences or hedges, as part of general park redesigns. 

Enforcement of leash laws has been lax in the past at city parks, but many dog-free visitors have complained about canines being a nuisance. 

“You have to show responsibility,” said George Scott, who often takes his grandchildren to area parks. “If I see a really big, aggressive dog off-leash, I won’t even go in the park.” 

The new policy considers all parks as on-leash areas, unless residents request separate off-leash areas be created. Dog owners think the new fenced-in areas will cramp their freedom. 

“The policy still offers fenced pens as the only option for off-leash recreation in 195 of San Francisco’s 220 parks,” the San Francisco Dog Owners group posted on its Web site. “There’s no room in this plan for real community input or oversight.” 

Many dog owners are still walking their dogs off leashes in parks and have not yet been ticketed — but that could soon change. 

The issue is expected to be addressed Monday before the Board of Supervisors. Some representatives said they’ve been approached by people from both sides seeking a solution. 

“All of us would rather not deal with it,” said Supervisor Leland Yee. “It’s not going to be an easy issue. Whatever you do, you’re going to be upsetting some people.” 

Numerous parks in San Francisco and the Bay Area have fenced-in, off-leash areas. A nonprofit organization, dogpark.com, estimates that there are more than 600 fenced-in pooch parks nationwide. 

Many cities charge dog owners an annual fee to use the fenced-in areas, where dogs can run free and meet other pooches. While that concept is popular in other cities, it is not sitting well with some in San Francisco. 

“It’s a shame that in a city named after St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, that we have to criminalize dogs and dog walkers,” said David Spero, who was walking his dog in Dolores Park.