VOLUME 2, NUMBER 28
<> MONDAY, JULY 16, 2001
Going to the dogs
||On June 12 the San Francisco Recreation &
Park Department released the draft of a new policy regulating
canine activity in the city’s parks. The draft, which has
already ignited heated controversy, can be found at parks.sfgov.org/dogpolicy.htm.
The department will receive public comment until August 13; for
more information, call 415 831-2084 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Francisco SPCA says city’s new
off-leash policy falls short
The San Francisco SPCA has cited significant
shortcomings in the proposed dog policy released by the San Francisco
Recreation and Park Department.
“We support adding more off-leash dog areas in San
Francisco parks, but flaws in the proposed Recreation and Park Department
policy threaten the success of the off-leash program,” said SF/SPCA
President Ed Sayres.
According to Will Anzenberger, Director of Law and
Advocacy at the SF/SPCA, the small, restrictive dog play areas (DPA)
proposed by the Recreation and Park Department reflect a “cookie-cutter”
approach that does not accommodate the diverse needs of people and dogs.
“The play areas are too limited in scope and design to provide adequate
recreation for San Francisco’s 120,000 dogs and their owners,”
The SF/SPCA outlined deficiencies in the proposed dog
policy. Many of the problems are rooted in the policy’s single-use
approach, with segregated, fenced areas restricted to off-leash
· Single-use areas are
less efficient and less suited to the needs of people and dogs than
shared, multi-use areas are. Single-use areas are especially
problematic for families. They make it all but impossible for people
to enjoy the park with their children and their dogs at the same time.
· The segregated dog
play areas are too limited in scope and design. The needs of all dogs
and their owners will not be accommodated in the small, confined
spaces proposed in the new policy.
· The capacity limits
proposed for dog play areas are virtually unenforceable. The areas are
certain to be overcrowded. Squeezing too many dogs into insufficient
space defeats a key purpose of off-leash recreation — allowing dogs
to move freely and interact without constraint.
Off-leash recreation is vital to supporting responsible
dog ownership, Anzenberger said. “San Franciscans rely on public parks
to provide their dogs with proper socialization, exercise and activity —
vital requirements for a safe, well-behaved dog.”
As a stakeholder, the San Francisco SPCA expressed its
concerns to the Recreation and Park Department in April. Unfortunately,
The SF/SPCA’s suggestions were not incorporated in the proposed policy
“We will continue to take an active role in working
toward a productive compromise that serves the needs of all park users,”
Anzenberger said. “There should be adequate recreational opportunities
in our parks for everyone, including responsible owners with off-leash
More information is available at www.sfspca.org
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SFDOG rejects Recreation & Park’s
draft dog policy
The San Francisco Dog Owners Group [SFDOG] rejects
Recreation & Parks Department’s Dog Policy Draft as presented. The
policy it outlines does not meet the needs of the dog-owning community,
nor does it reflect San Francisco’s place at the vanguard of off-leash
recreation. Rec & Park’s proposal calls for divisive
compartmentalization of our parks, a ghettoization that would destroy
vital green space and mar open vistas.
A quarter of this city’s households include a dog, and
playing with the family dog is a legitimate, healthy, and enormously
popular form of recreation for people of all ages and ability levels. Many
San Franciscans without pets come to the parks simply to interact with
dogs and watch them play. This policy does nothing to recognize those
facts and does much to treat dog owners and their dogs as undesirable
elements that must be hidden from sight and confined in grassless pens
This plan suggests that off-leash recreation is
inherently more dangerous and less desirable than other park uses. That is
simply not true. According to statistics from the CDC and the San
Francisco Dept. of Public Health:
· A child is many times
more likely to be injured participating in team sports or playing on
playground equipment than by a dog in the park.
· San Francisco’s dog
bite average is significantly lower than the national average and has
been dropping steadily in recent years as the number of dogs playing
off-leash in the parks has risen.
· There have been no
reports of dog-feces-borne illness in SF in more than 50 years.
· Dog walking is a
healthy, community-building activity, especially for seniors, the
disabled, and the chronically ill — segments of the population which
rely heavily on dogs for companionship and assistance and often can
not participate in organized sports and other recreational activities.
There is not enough parkland in San Francisco to
continue carving it up into single-use plots. In this densely populated
environment, shared use is the only acceptable solution. Already, dozens
of athletic fields stand empty for large portions of the day, year-round,
in some cases locked up to prevent casual usage. SF cannot afford to make
separate spaces for each set of park users because some object to
encountering others. Basketball players must share their courts with tai
chi practitioners; walkers share pathways with runners and rollerbladers;
Frisbee players must make room on the grass for pick-up soccer games.
Mixed use happens successfully, every day, all over the city. Tolerance
and sharing are essential components of urban existence.
Any policy that attempts to force such an enormous
segment of the population into ghetto-like pens will fail. Public
education, not segregation, is the way to achieve more beautiful,
welcoming spaces that respect and celebrate the diversity of San Francisco
— in short, the exact types of places parks are meant to be.
SFDOG is working with other stakeholders to revise the
draft to protect our green, open spaces and to respect the diverse
interests of the San Francisco community. We call upon dog lovers in San
Francisco to take action in this important quality-of-life issue. Take
full advantage of this public comment period to read the draft policy and
submit your comments, in writing, to the Recreation & Park Department.
More information is available at www.sfdog.org