Dog Groups Help Out Parks During Shutdown

By Cameron Woo, January 2019, Updated June 2021
Fort Funston, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of SFDOG

Fort Funston, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of SFDOG

As the partial government shutdown enters its third week, citizen groups around the country are pitching in to help keep parks open and functioning. America’s National Parks and Recreational Areas are being hit hard during the government’s partial shutdown, with reports of overflowing trash and waste, unmonitored bad behavior and safety issues as a result of furloughed park staff. As our government inaction rages on in Washington, D.C., some local dog groups are picking up the mantle and filling the void.

At Bunker Hill Monument in Boston, a popular tourist site, a neighborhood group called Charlestown Dogs has been providing fresh garbage bags and removing overflowing trash bins (including dog waste) at the four entrances to the historic monument. Bunker Hill is maintained by the National Park Service but federal workers are on leave due to the shutdown.

Last weekend in San Francisco, Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, joined volunteers from the San Francisco Dog Owners group (SFDOG) to pick up trash at Lands End and Ocean Beach, two popular federally-run sites in the region that are also without staff during the shutdown.

“This is basically citizens standing up and saying, ‘If you guys can’t do it yourselves because of the shutdown, we will definitely help clean up the parks,’” said Sally Stephens, who chairs the dog owner’s group.


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Another effort by SFDOG has been to re-open Fort Funston, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and a popular multi-use coastal facility just south of San Francisco that allows off-leash dogs. SFDOG had asked the GGNRA to open the parking lot at Fort Funston during the partial government shutdown. People are continuing to access and use Fort Funston despite the closed lot and are instead parking alongside the highway causing safety concerns. The GGNRA has agreed to open the lot if SFDOG maintains Fort Funston during the shutdown by removing trash from the trash bins on a daily basis and having the porta potties cleaned. This maintenance will cost $1,542 per week. SFDOG has started a fundraising campaign to augment the organization’s contributions and is committed to keeping Fort Funston open through the remainder of the shutdown.

A government shutdown has many victims and unfortunate consequences. It also has given rise to citizen groups and volunteers pitching in to keep their beloved public spaces functioning until the Washington comes to its senses and the professionals return.

Are citizens and dog groups helping out in your community during the shutdown?

Editors’ note: Readers have shared with us recent charitable efforts to aid furloughed federal workers and their pets, including special pet food banks established by several animal humane organizations around the country offering free bags of dog and cat food to federal employees and contractors (Chicago, Baltimore, Tampa to name a few). Kriser’s Natural Pet store has offered to help with a free bag of pet food for those impacted by the government shutdown—just show your government ID. As the shutdown continues more efforts to support families with pets are heeding the call for emergency services by the day.


 Images courtesy of SFDOG

Cameron Woo is co-founder of The Bark magazine, and was its Publisher for over two decades. He was also the magazine’s Art Director.