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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Double-dealing Exposed in Woofieleaks
Citizens fight for off-leash recreation in Golden Gate National Recreational Area
Photograph by Amanda Jones from Unleashed (Chronicle Books, 2017)

A contentious fight for off-leash recreation has raged for decades in Golden Gate National Recreational Area, with the National Park Service threatening to severely reduce access to dogs. New evidence proves that the battle has been fraught with bias, faulty studies and collusion.

San Francisco has a reputation for being dog friendly. More dogs than children live within its city limits, and many companies, especially tech start-ups, encourage employees to bring their dogs to work.

But San Francisco, surrounded on three sides by water, is also the second densest city in the country. As a result, recreational open space is at a premium, and that has led to squabbles in San Francisco’s urban parks, especially over where dogs can and cannot be walked.

Dog advocates have been fighting for years to preserve gains in recreational access made in the ’70s and ’80s. We have always felt the deck was stacked against us, but recent revelations have shown us that the situation was even worse than we thought. These revelations also forced a federal agency to delay implementation of the severe dog-walking restrictions it wanted to impose.

An Urban National Park

In 1972, Congress created Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), initially a hodgepodge of land in San Francisco and Marin Counties, to “concentrate on serving the outdoor recreation needs of the people of the metropolitan area.” It was part of a Nixon administration’s campaign to “bring parks to the people” and increase outdoor recreation in urban areas.

San Francisco transferred all public oceanfront land within city limits to the National Park Service (NPS) for inclusion in GGNRA. In return, the NPS promised to protect and preserve the land’s traditional recreational uses, which included off-leash dog walking.

In 1979, as part of this promise, GGNRA developed a “pet policy,” which allowed people to walk dogs, including off-leash dogs, at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Marin’s Muir and Rodeo Beaches, and on miles of trails in the Marin Headlands—somewhat less than 1 percent of the total holdings. For decades, people hiked these parklands with their dogs, played with them in the surf, and enjoyed the sense of community that arises in areas where people and dogs have fun together.

But, by the 1990s, the NPS management mindset at GGNRA began to move away from the original focus on recreational access. Senior staff argued that they needed to manage this highly modif ied, urban recreation area the same way that remote, pristine wilderness is managed. Since dogs are not allowed in places like Yellowstone or Crater Lake, the NPS claimed, they should never have been allowed in GGNRA. In their view, earlier promises no longer applied.

In 1995, the NPS began fencing off areas at Fort Funston to all visitors (not just people with dogs). Then, in 2001, it rescinded the pet policy by administrative fiat. In neither case did GGNRA staff bother to seek public input before making their decisions, despite being required by law to do so. In both cases, dog advocates went to federal court to force the agency to follow the law. In both cases, we won.

The Fort Funston case, in particular, embarrassed the NPS. Internal emails, uncovered in the lawsuit, showed that GGNRA staff had knowingly lied to the public about their plans, repeatedly telling people no more closures were coming while actively planning more fenced-off areas.

A New Plan

In the nearly 20 years since, the NPS has single-mindedly pushed forward with a plan to ban entirely or reduce significantly where we can walk with our dogs in GGNRA, partially as payback for dog-walkers daring to take them to court— and win.

In the final version of its “Proposed Rule for Dog Management in the GGNRA” released last year, the NPS called for drastic cuts of up to 90 percent in the few places where people could now walk with their dogs. It put even tighter restrictions on those who walk more than three dogs, prohibiting them from doing so on evenings or weekends anywhere in GGNRA. While targeting professional dog walkers, this provision would also have a huge negative impact on rescue groups and fosters, whose volunteers often walk larger groups of dogs.

According to this plan, if the NPS decides that there hasn’t been enough compliance with the new restrictions, GGNRA’s superintendent can change access status from off-leash to on-leash, or no dogs at all. The superintendent doesn’t have to show that dogs have caused any problems, just that too many people are walking dogs in areas where the NPS doesn’t want them. Within a few years, under this plan, all GGNRA dog walking could be prohibited with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.

And, as GGNRA continues to rack up tens of millions of dollars in deferred routine maintenance— deferred because of a lack of funding— the NPS was willing to spend $2.6 million each year to hire more rangers to enforce the new restrictions on people with dogs.

Pushback

It would be an understatement to say that the proposed plan did not go over well with those who have enjoyed walking their dogs in GGNRA for generations. We organized protests and marches. We attended public meetings and reached out to local elected officials for support. At every stage of the process, public comment—including comments from nearly every local elected official—was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed restrictions.

We pointed out that there was no evidence of significant negative impacts by dogs at any GGNRA site, and that there were serious errors and mistakes in the dog plan’s environmental analysis. We showed that the NPS did not analyze the impact on surrounding communities if the thousands and thousands of people who walked their dogs on parklands moved into the much smaller city parks. That analysis was the only thing the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had asked of the NPS, yet the agency did little more than compile a list of nearby parks.

Despite everything, the NPS made only a few, mostly cosmetic, changes to the dog plan it first officially proposed in 2011. None of those changes benefited people with dogs.

In July 2015, hearing that a draft rule was coming soon, a coalition of dog and recreation groups, including Save Our Recreation, San Francisco DOG, Marin County DOG and Coastside DOG of San Mateo County, submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the NPS, seeking documents related to the development of the dog plan.

When nearly a year passed with few documents released, Chris Carr, head of the Environment and Energy Practice Group at the prominent law firm Morrison & Foerster, sued the NPS for violating FOIA.

As a result of the lawsuit being filed, the agency finally began handing over the requested documents. They were damning. You can see them at WoofieLeaks.com. The website’s name may be cute, but the contents raise serious legal and ethical questions about how the NPS developed its plan. What clearly comes across is the agency’s complete and utter contempt for people and for public input. In their emails, NPS staff routinely mocked dog walkers, calling them “rattlesnakes,” and derided anyone—even elected officials— who dared question their plans. A staff biologist suggested leaving scientific information that supported fewer restrictions on dogs out of the plan’s environmental impact statement. A senior GGNRA official directed staff to delete emails about the dog plan, saying, “These conversations are best done by phone.”

But perhaps most troubling was the revelation that more than one GGNRA official used a private email account to conduct official business on the dog plan, apparently thinking the private emails would be hidden from any FOIA request. (They’re not, and you can read those on WoofieLeaks.com, as well.)

One senior staffer (who, ironically, served as GGNRA’s FOIA officer and director of communications and partnerships) used his private email account to collude and coordinate with special-interest groups opposed to dog walking. He did this in an effort to drum up public comments and support for GGNRA’s proposal at a time when the agency was supposed to be impartially analyzing alternatives. That same staffer may also have engaged in unlawful grassroots lobbying by advising those same groups on how to communicate with a member of Congress.

Shine a Light on Bias

The emails and other FOIA documents clearly proved that, as we always suspected, the NPS staff members who developed the dog plan were unfairly biased against dog walking and people with dogs. The surprise, however, was their level of active engagement with only one side in the debate: those opposed to dog walking.

Similar collusion is likely happening in other places where dog walking is under attack, and dog advocates should be on the lookout for it. Don’t be afraid to use whatever open-government laws exist in your jurisdiction, from FOIA to local “sunshine” laws, to ferret out bias and impropriety. Look what FOIA did for us.

The day before the NPS planned to sign the rule and put it into effect, the agency announced that the rule was being postponed indefinitely while it conducted an investigation of the private emails and their impact on the development of the dog plan.

Given the NPS’s long history of bias in this matter, there is serious doubt about the agency’s capacity to fairly and impartially investigate the actions of its own staff. To prevent a whitewash of GGNRA misdeeds, many people, including Congresswoman Jackie Speier (whose district includes GGNRA land in San Mateo and San Francisco Counties), have called for an independent inquiry by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General, not by NPS staff, as the agency has proposed.

The decades-long process to create a new dog management plan for GGNRA has been so seriously flawed by outright bias, collusion, omission of data and intentional subverting of the public process that any plan that comes out of it is similarly tainted. The NPS’s proposed plan can never be lawfully adopted and implemented.

Had it not been for our FOIA request and lawsuit, however, we might never have been able to prove our suspicions about the NPS’s unfair and predetermined process.

The fight is by no means over, however. The NPS could decide next week, next month, or anytime in the future to try to move forward with the same restrictive plan that it’s been pushing for nearly 20 years. But if they do, dog advocates— and our lawyers—will be waiting, ready to continue the fight for our right to walk with our dogs in places enjoyed by many generations of people and their pups.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It’s Official: Dog Parks Rule
Dog Parks Rule

Dog parks have come a really long way in the past 20 years. Once deemed a mild curiosity (and perhaps an irritant) by most city and county park departments, they are now at the top of the list of community “must-haves.” Since 2007, their numbers have grown by 80 percent, according to a recent report from the Trust for Public Lands, which surveyed the nation’s 100 largest city park systems.

As noted in their report, 2016 City Park Facts, “Nearly every big city now has at least one dedicated dog park, often with a name that reflects the creativity and exuberance of the movement. Fort Worth pups play at Fort Woof, Memphis pets frolic at Overton Bark, Dallas dogs run at My Best Friend’s Park and Atlanta pooches scamper at Freedom Barkway.”

As we all know, we’re hooked on dogs and love our outdoor R&R time with them, watching them make new friends as we share the latest with other dog folks. Park planners and advocates are catching on; as Peter Harnik, who led the study noted, “Americans love dogs, and parks increasingly reflect that fact as people want places to get outside and take their dogs with them.”

According to the report, the top five dog-park cities are Henderson, Nev.; Portland, Ore.; Norfolk, Va.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Madison, Wisc.

We have to hand it to all those “exuberant” dog park advocates: our hard work has paid off.

News: Editors
Off-Leash Recreation is Being Threatened
Lola at Crissy Field, GGNRA

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is proposing a roughly 90 percent reduction in its off-leash space. And we have only until May 25 to comment on this draconian proposal.

The GGNRA oversees more than 80,000 acres of the Northern California coastline, and of this, dogs have only been allowed on approximately 1 percent. Their proposed new Dog Management Plan will reduce that smidgen by 90 percent, which is a significant hit.

Although a unit of the Dept. of the Interior’s National Park Service, GGNRA is in a decidedly different category than the more traditional parks such as Yellowstone or Yosemite. From its inception in 1972, it has been charged with balancing habitat protection with recreational activities that predated its creation: “To provide for the maintenance of needed recreational open space.” Foremost among those activities was (and is) off-leash dog-walking. One of the groundbreaking 1970s “parks for the people,” GGNRA serves a densely populated metropolitan area and is an invaluable resource for locals and visitors alike, providing access to outdoor recreation for millions of people each year.

For many of us, especially women and seniors, off-leash recreation with our dogs is our only form of exercise. We don’t kayak, bike, run or cross-train. What we do—from time immemorial, it seems—is simply walk with our unfettered dogs, enjoying the regenerative benefits of spending time outside. We also acknowledge that a balance needs to be met with respect to other park users and the natural resources that we all value.

But we believe that an acceptable balance was not adequately taken into consideration during GGNRA’s rule-making deliberations. Rather, opinions and desires expressed by special-interest groups such as the Sierra Club and Audubon Society and prominent donors held greater sway than those of local elected officials and the many thousands of off-leash advocates (and other park users) they represent. And because this is thought to be a precedent setting judgment, it can (and will) be used against off-leash activity is other areas throughout the country.

During two recent public meetings held by the GGNRA and chaired by park superintendent, Christine Lernertz, in response to questions about how they regard the opposition from the vast majority of residents, local elected officials and humane organizations, Lernertz brushed those questions off and referred to GGNRA's “national” status, meaning they are a park for the whole nation. (She did though reference their concern about tourists from other countries, and what would they feel about seeing dogs on beaches.) So if indeed the GGNRA is a national resource for all of us, they need to hear from all of us from both inside and outside the area.

Your comments are needed now and due before May 25:

What do I say in my comment?

·    See talking points and sample comments here, or here or see the one below.

·    Consider making the point, in your own words. If you are outside the Bay Area, tell them where you are located and how important the issue of off leash recreation is to you, especially in public land owned by the federal government. Your voice matters too.

How do I submit my comment?

  • Go to https://www.regulations.gov, type 1024-AE16 in the search box, and press Enter.
  • Click the Comment Now! box on the results page.
  • Click the Commenter's Checklist link to view a PDF with commenting guidelines and tips.
  • Enter your comment and other required information in the form provided.
  • General Sample Comment Letter

    “I am writing to voice my opposition to the highly restrictive proposed rule for dog management at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). It was established by Congress as a national recreation are—not a national park. Banning dog walking recreation from nearly all of the GGNRA is a violation of public trust and the unit’s enabling legislation.

    These significant restrictions to dog walking are being proposed without any evidence that dog walking is causing actual impacts to GGNRA’s natural resources or visitor experience.

    I am especially opposed to the provision that would give GGNRA’s superintendent a blank check to ban dogs without any sort of public input process and before any impacts from dogs occur.

    I strongly urge the National Park Service to rethink its proposed rule for dog walking at GGNRA. Please take into account the input and concerns of the thousands of people in this country that are opposing this plan.”

    Also see:

    http://www.saveourrecreation.com/resources/

    http://www.saveoffleash.com/

    https://youtu.be/ZUe1fdoo_Ek

     

     

     

    Good Dog: Behavior & Training
    Dog-Dog Greetings Research
    Short and sweet if given the choice

    I recently attended one of my favorite annual events—the Interdisciplinary Forum on Applied Animal Behavior (IFAAB) conference. This is a small gathering of 30 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Veterinary Behaviorists, Academics and Trainers who get together each year for a discussion of all kinds of topics related to Applied Animal Behavior. Every attendee gives a talk, and we discuss everything with enthusiasm from the first talk to the concluding remarks.

    This year, fittingly, the first talk was about greetings. Camille Ward, PhD, CAAB, started things off with a talk called “What’s Up? Dog-to-Dog Greetings.” Greetings are a fascinating area of behavior because so much can happen in such a short time, and there are so many possible functions of greetings. Greeting between members of the same species serve a variety of functions from reducing uncertainty, fear and arousal to gathering information. Greetings can involve the signaling of status, increasing tolerance for being close to one another and may play a role in conflict management and reconciliation, which are important areas of behavior in social species though they have been primarily studied in primates.

    Ward videotaped greetings between pairs of dogs at a local dog park in Ann Arbor, Michigan and analyzed the behavior that she observed. When she watched the behavior in the greetings, she collected data on a large number of behavioral details. (Videotaping is a common tool in behavioral research that allows scientists to gather more data than is possible when doing it live, and also takes so much time that it prevents scientists from taking over the world or even having a life because it keeps them too busy for such undertakings.)

    In this study, 52 dogs were recorded, in 26 greetings. Each dog was only observed in a single greeting. Ward recorded whatever greetings happened to occur at the dog park, although she specifically avoided greetings when a dog first entered the park. She was interested in pairs of dogs greeting and when a dog first arrives, he is often mobbed by other dogs. Pairs of interacting animals are called “dyads” in the animal behavior literature, and the dyad was the unit of study in this project.

    For each dyad, Ward noted which dog initiated the greeting or if it was a mutual approach. She noted the relative sizes of the dogs and whether play or aggression followed the greeting. Other data included whether each dog’s overall body posture was high, neutral or low both at the beginning and the end of the greeting, and if both dogs participated in the greeting by sniffing the other dog.

    One of the most interesting and practical results from this study was how short the greetings were. When dogs are off leash and free to choose, they don’t hang around interacting for a long time. The greetings Ward observed were typically in the six to eight second range, which is very brief. It’s certainly a lot less time than we spend talking with our human friends when we run into them on dog walks. When that happens and our dogs also greet, they are forced to be in close proximity to the other dog when that is not what would happen if they were doing things their own way. Greetings are naturally short—far shorter than just about all of us experts at this conference would have predicted! We should keep this in mind if we have dogs greet on leash and not allow the interaction to extend beyond that time frame unless the dogs progress into play.

    Based on Ward’s study, play is not a highly likely outcome of many greetings. Only six of the 52 greetings (twelve percent) she recorded resulted in play. Perhaps we should consider that many dogs want to meet and greet one another, but don’t want to engage in play as often as many of us expect. None resulted in aggression, which is encouraging, but that rate might be higher in a population of dogs that are not at the dog park as some people wisely choose not to take dogs prone to aggression to the dog park.

    Greeting were either reciprocated or unreciprocated.  In a reciprocated greeting, both dogs were involved in the interaction and showed similar behavior—e.g., both dogs sniffed each other.  With an unreciprocated greeting, only one of the dogs sniffed or investigated. The other dog ignored or showed little attention to the greeter. 

    Large weight differences usually involved the heavier dog initiating the greeting. When weights were closer between the two dogs, involvement by both dogs was more common. Over 80 percent of the greetings were initiated by only one of the dogs.  This pattern suggests that dogs are using greetings as a way to assess other dogs.

    If you have observed your own dog greeting other dogs, does his behavior match up with what Camille Ward documented in her study?

    Dog's Life: Travel
    A Local’s View of Dog-Friendly Bozeman, MT
    (left to right) Drinking Horse Hiking Trail, Sypes Canyon, Hyalite Lake

    Bozeman, Montana is home to West Paw Design one of the greenest and socially responsible companies anywhere. West Paw Design are makers of eco-friendly dog beds and exquisitely designed toys that utilize a variety of forward-thinking materials such as hemp, organic cotton and an exclusive eco-fiber made completely from recycled plastic. If you are in the neighborhood, they welcome the public to come into their Bozeman-based manufacturing facility to pick up some toys and get their suggestions about the best places to bring their dogs—including their own West Paw Dog Park at Rocky Creek Farm that’s right down the street from where their facilities. Knowing their dedication to the good (dog) life, we spoke to the West Paw folks recently about some of their favorite canine destinations …

    Drinking Horse Hiking Trail: This 2.1 mile loop offers scenic views and welcomes dogs. Located close to town, it offers a great moderate-level hike for canines and owners alike.

    Sypes Canyon: Located in the Gallatin National Forest, this 5.8 trail through a shaded forest follows a creek-fed canyon that will quench your dog’s thirst. 2 miles in there’s an overlook with a great view of the Gallatin Valley. Don't be surprised to see horses on the trail. 

    Hyalite Reservoir: A 30 minute drive from downtown Bozeman, this getaway offers endless opportunities for hiking, breathtaking waterfalls and lakeside camping. 

    Pete’s Hill: A quick and convenient trail for downtown dwellers.

    Cooper Park: Consensus selection of the most dog-friendly park in town, located in a historic residential area.

    Bozeman Pond Dog Park: Awesome beach for dogs accompanies the one-acre off-leash area. Plus, an on-leash trail nearby.

    Many of the city’s restaurants have outdoor seating in the summer and early fall, allowing dogs to hang with their owners al fresco. A few favorites: Naked Noodle, Plonk, Nova Café and Starky’s.

    Dog's Life: Lifestyle
    Shawnee Mission Park Off-Leash Area
    Room to Run in Shawnee, Kansas

    Shawnee Mission Park is the largest in eastern Kansas (and one of the most visited in the state); at 1,600 acres, it’s more than twice the size of NYC’s Central Park. A multi-use recreational space, it provides room for diverse activities such as disc golf, archery, fishing (the lake is stocked) and lots of hiking and bike riding. And, oh yes, a 53-acre off-leash dog area.

    The OLA is, of course, what grabbed my interest. It’s one of the largest in the nation, and so for size alone, it deserves attention in this column. But wait! It gets better. Not only do dog lovers have an ample trail-laced area for their own exercise, there’s also plenty of space for their dogs to frolic and romp. All that, plus a cove with access to a 120-acre lake to practice dog paddling and ball diving. On a hot summer day in Kansas, that must be a welcome relief to both wading humans and their dogs.

    According to superintendent of parks Bill Maasen, Shawnee Mission Park was created by a bond initiative and opened in 1964. The off-leash dog area was developed roughly 15 years ago, at a time when dog parks were springing up across the land. Typical of many large OLAs, it is not fully fenced, so a good recall is must here, something that’s often mentioned in the rave online reviews. (Smaller dog parks and dog runs generally are fully fenced, but—depending on their location and proximity to roads—larger OLAs seldom are. As in this particular park, fencing tends to be concentrated near roadways and parking areas.)

    The landscape includes prairie and woodland, and because it’s bordered by dense woods, there are sightings of deer aplenty. OLA-goers need to be watchful of their dogs and follow the rules, including the requirement that “dogs must be under the control and in view of their handler at all times.” A wise choice.

    Maasen explained that they are undertaking improvements soon, including expanding the often-overflowing parking area by many new spaces and installing safer gates so dogs won’t be able to push them open and run out to the road. They also have a large accessibility project coming up that will provide more stable paving for the quarter-mile walkway to the lake, improving its navigability for those who use wheelchairs and other assistive devices.

    As for the lakeshore itself, instead of sand or dirt, pavers are used in what is called keystone construction: they “lock” together like Lego tiles, with pea gravel in between. The hard surface makes it easier to keep a wet dog clean after a dip and protects paws from hot sand.

    Being inured to a region where park users have to beg for any kind of maintenance whatsoever at our OLA, I’m blown away by the fact that the Shawnee one closes on Tuesdays from 5 to 9 am for weekly park maintenance. Other than that, the OLA has generous opening times: summer hours are from 5 am to 11 pm, with minor adjustments in winter.

    Reviewing this Kansas landmark tempts me to take a “Pete Campbell” plunge. In one of the series’ final episodes, the Mad Men character was poised to trade an office on Madison Ave. for one in Wichita. For him, the carrot was access to a Learjet. For me, it would be to have a park with a management philosophy that recognizes the importance of providing generous open space for both us and our dogs, operated by people who see the wisdom of meeting the needs of this important constituency.

    To paraphrase another famous Kansan, “Toto, I have a feeling we are in Kansas,” and it feels good. 

    News: Editors
    Find Your Bliss: From Financial Analyst to Dogwalker

    Ever think there must be more to life than your daily 9 to 5? What if money didn’t matter and you could follow your life’s passions—what would you do? For Matt Hein that meant quitting his job in finance and moving to Norway, eventually becoming a dogwalker.

    “Portrait of a Dogwalker,” by 21-year-old Norwegian filmmaker Fredrik Harper, chronicles the young Englishman’s decision to leave his job and travel to the French Alps. He began dating a Norwegian woman and followed her back to Oslo. It was there that he realized his two great passions: Being outside and being around dogs.

    He now spends his days walking dogs in the woods outside the Norwegian capital and as depicted in the film—he appears to be absolutely content. The seven-and-a-half minute film shows his canine charges eagerly exploring nature while Hein ruminates on the meaning of life. Never has dogwalking appeared so appealing.

    “You have to get in in the morning before your boss, and you have to leave after your boss because that way your boss thinks you’re working much harder than you are,” says Hein, harkening back to his days in London finance. “It’s a competition for who can be sat at their desk pretty much wasting their life. That’s not a way to live your life.”

    Amen.

    PORTRAIT OF A DOGWALKER from Fredrik Harper on Vimeo.

     

    News: Editors
    NBA Player Klay Thompson Stars at the Dog Park
    Klay Thompson and Rocco play fetch at Berkeley's Cesar Chavez Park

    Ever wonder how a professional athlete handles the pressure of competition and a grueling 6-month long schedule? For burgeoning NBA star Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, it’s a walk in the park … the dog park. When Klay isn’t in the gym or on the road, he likes to take his dog Rocco, an English bulldog, to his local off-leash area at Cesar Chavez Park in nearby Berkeley (CA). We’ve seen him there, playing fetch and doing what dog people do … unwinding, taking in some fresh air. “With me, my friends or my family, I can’t help but talk about basketball, so this is my escape,” Thompson is quoted in a San Francisco Chronicle profile.

    ESPN analyst and hall-of-fame player Charles Barkley calls the 6 ft 9 Thompson the best NBA player at his position—strong praise. Thompson’s team, the Golden State Warriors, apparently agrees, recently resigning their star shooting guard to a multi-year, $70 million contract. What was Thompson’s response at the post-signing press conference? “We were trying to get the contract signed, and all he wanted to do was go home to his dog,” mused Warrior general manager Bob Myers.

    We know the joys firsthand of Cesar Chavez Park OLA, it’s where the idea for The Bark was born. In fact, the 17-acre OLA overlooking the San Francisco Bay was founded by Bark co-founder Claudia Kawczynska in 2000. One of the founding dogs was Claudia’s dog Nellie … named after former Warrior coach Don Nelson. A bit of history we think Klay Thompson would appreciate.

    News: Editors
    Ruling Against a Park Ranger for Using a Taser on a Dog Walker

    A couple of years ago we reported that Jackie Speier (D-Calif) deserved a Bark call-out for a job well-done for “ripping” into the National Park Service for an agent who used a taser on a man who was running with his small dogs off-leash in an unincorporated area in San Mateo County.

    Now a judge has ruled that the park ranger, Sarah Cavallaro, acted unlawfully when she used her taser on Gary Hesterberg. Not only that but Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley also found that since the leash law had never been enforced at the Rancho Corral de Tierra—which had only recently been acquired by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area—that the ranger overstepped her duty that day, the first day of leash enforcement. Rangers had been instructed to take a “soft enforcement, outreach approach with regards to violations of the Rancho’s new rules.” This was an approach that apparently Cavallaro did not follow.

    It was reported that

    “After four minutes with the stun gun pointed at him, Hesterberg said he had a heart condition and again asked what authority he was being held under, to which Cavallaro answered, “the Constitution.”

    “That is no kind of answer,” Hesterberg responded, before turning to leave. When he did, Cavallaro fired her stun gun, hitting Hesterberg in the back and buttocks, court records show.

    When Hesterberg was confronted by the ranger about the leash policy, he, allegedly, was uncooperative and would not provide her with his name. So after being tasered he was actually arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, keeping dogs off-leash and providing false information, but San Mateo County prosecutors declined to file charges.

    Back in 2012, Representative Speier had noted that, “Many of my constituents are understandably angered by what appears to be an excessive use of force by a park ranger.” She added, “From the information I have to date, it does not appear that the use of a taser was warranted.” Speier also requested information about training in taser usage for park rangers, including the appropriate utilization and risks of tasers.

    The court also found that Hesterberg, though uncooperative, never posed an immediate threat to Cavallaro or anyone else and that the ranger did not provide an adequate warning that she would shoot him with the stun gun if he tried to leave.

    The judge found in favor of Hesterberg, awarding him $50,000 in damages for both physical and mental suffering.

     

    Culture: DogPatch
    Great Dog Parks: Point Isabel, CA
    Richmond, California’s Point Isabel, once toxic landfill, is one of the nation’s biggest and best off-leash parks
    Point Isabel Dog Park, Richmond CA

    I had just let Annie and Patch out of the car at Point Isabel when a white sedan screeched up and a plump, middle-aged passenger tumbled out. She plunged toward us, beaming. “Perros o perras?” she demanded. Boy dogs or girl dogs?

    Then she seized Annie’s big head in both hands and, bending low over my inscrutable, fearsome-looking Akita mix, crooned, “Que linda, que linda.” What a beautiful girl. Annie was delighted, thank dog.

    Often called “the Point Isabel dog park,” Point Isabel Regional Shoreline (PI) is actually a unique multi-use park on the eastern edge of San Francisco Bay. With camera-ready views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais, it is beloved by walkers with and without dogs, joggers, birdwatchers, windsurfers, and the occasional fisherman or kayaker. Recently, a Japanese tour group even stopped to marvel (and be marveled at).

    Many people, like my white-sedan lady, are there for a dog fix. Berkeley resident Katie Triest, who doesn’t have a dog, delights in watching them cavort. “It’s amazing how well they all get along,” she says.

    People of all ages and abilities relish PI, according to Jerry Yukic, a pastpresident of Point Isabel Dog Owners and Friends (PIDO). Yukic, who is 89, brings Dusty, a Brittany Spaniel rescue, to PI twice a day. “It’s a very safe place for senior citizens,” she says.

    For decades, though, PI was a wasteland. Like much of the open space along the East Bay shoreline, the park is built on fill. In fact, Battery Point (part of North Point Isabel) was once a dumping ground for battery casings that leaked lead and zinc. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that tons of contaminated waste were hauled away from North PI or buried under a clay cap. People with dogs had been roaming the area for many years, however.

    In 1985, PIDO began negotiating permanent off-leash status with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). Two years later, the park district agreed that dogs could be off-leash everywhere except the mudflats at low tide (when shorebirds are feeding) and the nearby marsh. Dogs are welcome in all open space, picnic areas, even the Sit & Stay Café. Better yet, people can kick back at the café while their canines are spruced up a few feet away at Mudpuppy’s Tub & Scrub.

    Most people don’t just kick back, though. At PI, the typical companion human is getting some exercise. The roughly 50-acre park, with its 3.2 miles of pathways, is divided by a channel that drains Hoffman Marsh. Visitors can circle both halves of the park—the 23 acres of PI proper and North PI, which is slightly bigger—using loop trails. A footbridge connects the two areas.

    How all this good stuff came about depends on whom you ask.

    The acclaimed EBRPD, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, is known for its refreshingly progressive off-leash polices that allow dogs on much of its vast trail system. Even so, it may not have anticipated PI’s popularity with dog walkers. One legend at the park district has it that Point Isabel used to be just a desolate, windy place where no one went. Then people started walking dogs there, and by the time the district realized what was happening, it was too late to stop it.

    The story told by the founders of PIDO is more romantic. They say that PI was wild, weedy and frequented by drug dealers dodging the Richmond police. After PIDO organized in 1985, “the number of dogs increased, and the drug dealers, frightened by the dogs and the growing presence of dog owners, disappeared,” according to an article by the late Sylvia Schild, PIDO’s first president. Then the usual suspects started complaining about dogs being allowed to run free.

    PIDO fought that battle and others for years, during which it developed a close partnership with the EBRPD, became a 501(c)3 nonprofit and grew from 75 to 5,200 members.

    from 75 to 5,200 members. Today, Point Isabel is a runaway success and a huge boon for the East Bay’s dense urban population. It is by far EBRPD’s single most popular recreation spot, with well over 1.3 million visitors every year—and no doubt that many dogs, making it one of the top off-leash areas in the United States.

    Not bad for an old dump.

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