Proposal could mean changes for dogs at parks

January 14, 2011 1:55:06 AM PST
A plan to crack down on dogs at some popular off leash parks will face fierce opposition from dog owners. Friday, Jan. 15 is when the National Park Service will release its 2,400 page document detailing the proposed restrictions.

Dog owners at Crissy Field in San Francisco have no complaints. Dogs run around without a leash and no one seems to have a problem with it.

"We come every day, maybe twice a day even. Yeah and we've never seen any bad interactions between dogs and people," says dog owner Marjorie Fulbright.

But the National Park Service says over the years, they've received a number of complaints from environmentalists who say unleashed dogs trample native vegetation and disturb protected species. Average park goers have complained too.

"We've had reports of families that have been picnicking and dogs have come right through their picnic blanket," says Golden Gate National Recreational Area Superintendent Frank Dean.

Dean's department just released this 2,400-page draft plan which calls for major changes. At Crissy Field, for instance, dogs would be prohibited at East Beach, off-leash areas would be limited to areas closer to the Golden Gate Bridge.

"What is the point? What is the need? The dogs have been here for decades," says dog owner Kevin Collins.

At Ocean Beach, off-leash dog walking would only be allowed at a section near the Cliff House, and at Fort Funston, unleash areas would be limited to north of the parking lot and south of the beach access trail, but at Muir Beach In Marin County, dogs would be banned entirely. Sally Stephens is president of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group.

"Go after the people who are causing the problem, but what they're doing is they're taking this broad approach that every single dog owner is being punished now for the actions of a very few," says Stephens.

Dog advocacy groups are working to mobilize and hope to get the help of city leaders. The National Park Service, meanwhile, plans to hold public hearings on the proposed changes in March, but before then, the public can comment online starting Friday.