Dog owners protest off-leash dog proposal

March 7, 2011 7:42:05 PM PST
A vocal crowd of dog lovers gathered at San Francisco's Fort Mason Monday to complain about the new dog policy proposed for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The policy would outlaw letting dogs off-leash on park land.

The dog owners were on hand to try to preserve the off-leash areas of the GGNRA that they have enjoyed since 1979. While people chanted outside, park officials were inside trying to explain the proposed changes.

The dog owners say the proposal would take away 90 percent of the off-leash areas of the GGNRA that currently only take up 1 percent of the park's total acreage. They say the communities of dog owners that use the areas would be destroyed.

But the GGNRA says the number of visitors to the park has increased dramatically in the past 20 years, threatening the condition of the parks. The GGNRA also points out that it is the only recreation area in the national parks system that has any off-leash areas at all.

"We need to consider the spectrum of visitor use of an area, people who want to enjoy the park with their dogs off leash, people who want to experience it as dog-free, and all of our, as you can imagine, 16 million visitors that fit along that spectrum," GGNRA spokesperson Howard Levitt said.

"The people with dogs are not going away," San Francisco Dog Owners Group spokesperson Sally Stephens said. "Where are we going to go? We're going to go into city parks. City parks are much smaller areas than what we have in the GGNRA and it's likely there will be increased wear and tear on the parks, there will be increased conflicts between park users, increased conflicts between dogs.

Mondays' was the third of four public workshops aimed at explaining the proposals. The next meeting is Wednesday, March 9 at Cabrillo School in Pacifica from 4-8 p.m.

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