DOGS OFF-LEASH IN MARIN: IT'S MORE ABOUT BARK THAN BITE - George Starn
In recent articles regarding dogs in open space, David Hansen of the Marin Open Space District remarked that off-leash dogs cause distruption to nesting birds and other wildlife. He adds, "We have already seen a decline in the number of wild creatures in the open space as a result of the unleashed dogs." Hansen says complaints about unleashed dogs are coming in at one per day instead of once a week.
I am a member of a sub-committee, appointed by the Marin Parks, Open Space and Cultural Commission, to seek resolution to the issue of dogs off-leash on fire roads. We are thwarted by the lack of cooperation from the Marin Open Space District administration. We repeatedly asked for records and studies to support Hansen's accusations, and only one letter of complaint was supplied to the committee.
Hansen refers to what he calls numerous and regular complaints leading to the district's proposal that all dogs will be leashed on all its lands. Last April, I obtained a copy of the district's "Incidents and Complaints Report" which showed: 79 entries in two years, with 48 complaints about dogs off-leash, and only 24 complaints of ill-mannered dogs. That is an average of one per month!
Most occurred in areas where dogs were allowed off-leash and people did not understand the rules because of improper signage.
I no longer have a dog. However, I walk the Loma Verde fire road and others in open space four times per week. I have seen more wildlife, especially turkeys, lately than in the past. Similarly, there have been more sightings than ever of once-elusive predators such as mountain lions and bobcats.
My daughter is a professional dog walker. I, at times, accompany her, as have experts from the Humane Society. We have found that the dogs are under control and well-behaved, which, according to the San Francisco shapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is the result of socialization of dogs - a main reason that owners use dog walking services. This is the goal of Dog Walkers of Marin, a new organization that assists with screening clients, dogs and new walkers.
Despite the more than 13 ideas suggested in our sub-committee meetings by the Humane Society, Open Space Commission and Dog Walkers of Marin, the Open Space District says its proposed policy is set and that all dogs will be on-leash on all district lands.
Some of our suggestions include:
* Correct signage at fire protection roads where dogs are allowed off-leash.
* A temperament and training certification for off-leash dogs with a study to track problems, complaints and solutions. Dog Walkers of Marin has consulted with U.C. Davis, which is interested in such a study.
* A limit of three dogs off-leash for citizens and 6 dogs off-leash for trained dog handlers.
* Dog walkers on trails weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and limited to the first mile of roads, with poop-bags dispensers at all trailheads, etc.
With more than 300 trails and roads in Marin, it would seem logical that we could provide a place for dogs to run. The fire roads are barely trafficked, non-sensitive areas.
Hikers have trails, bikers have trails and equestrians have some trails restricted for their use only. Come on Marin, share your 300 trails so that dogs and their owners - either directly or vicariously through dog walkers - may enjoy 3 per cent of them!
This issue will be decided by the Open Space and Cultural Commission, and the Marin Board of Supervisors, so let them know how you feel. Commission: fax (415) 499-3795 or phone: 499-6387