Off-leash News and Views, April 2007

East Bay

The plight of the native grasses and plants in Oakland will soon change the landscape for dogs and their people. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) have studied the Serpentine Prairie area for some time. Now the first phase of implementation for their “enhancement project,” fencing and closure of the main area at the top of the park, is set to begin, possibly within the next few weeks.

This flat open area, beloved as prime ball-throwing real estate by dogs and their people, has suffered from overuse, according the Dave Amme at EBRPD, and will remain off limits until further notice, for a minimum of two years. The Park District says it is looking into alternative areas that could serve the same ball- and Frisbee-loving canine clientele.
Fortunately, the new fenced off-leash dog play area in Joaquin Miller is perfect for such acitivities.  Thanks to Jean Quan and others from The City of Oakland who made the effort, and thanks to ODOG for throwing a fabulous opening party!

East Bay professional dog walkers don’t have much to celebrate, however. In what appears to be a well-planned crackdown, dog walkers have been detained for having too many dogs in their charge, and at least one dog has been seized. A dog walker I know was actually pursued by EBRPD officers, sirens blaring and lights flashing, while he was exiting the parking lot with seven dogs in his car. He was ordered to get out of the car, hands visible, and two back-up units were called.

The officers ran the man’s plates and would not allow him to use his cell phone, though they said he was not under arrest. They finally released him, threatening that next time they found him with more than three dogs and without the proper (very expensive) permit, they would arrest and book him, and seize the dogs. Overzealous enforcement or just plain harassment? You make the call.

San Francisco

Talks about the City of San Francisco reclaiming certain areas of the City that dogs love to roam – lands it granted to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) –  have halted. At the urging of Ocean Beach Dog, some members of the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare wanted to explore the possibility of taking back the land. When faced with an up or down vote, however, they decided their proposal language was too rigid. Ocean Beach has shifted its focus to other issues, like illegal park closures and citations, so the reversion campaign is presently inactive.

So we’re still subject to the GGNRA’s “negotiated rulemaking” process regarding the future of such popular dog recreation areas as Ocean Beach and Crissy Field, where ticketing of off-leash enthusiasts has been very heavy of late.

The next GGNRA meeting will be held April 5 from 3:00 to 7:30 PM at the Fort Mason Officers Club. Time is allotted for public comment.

Big news for big-city dogs and their people: “Timed use” – allowing dogs to run free during certain time periods – has been approved by the Dog Advisory Committee (DAC). Timed use has worked very well in NYC, so why not for us?
The DAC approved language changes to the current policy; now it must be passed by the Operations Committee and then the full Parks and Recreation Commission. Stay tuned to the SF Dog Owners Group website (www.sfdog.org) for upcoming meetings on the issue.