Leash law backlash on the rise in San Francisco 

A federal proposal to significantly restrict where dogs can roam off leash in local national parks has San Francisco politicians and parks officials worried about where the animals will wind up instead.

See full maps of the proposal.

A draft dog-management plan issued Jan. 14 by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area proposes to completely or significantly reduce the off-leash areas in Fort Funston, Crissy Field and seven other federal parks in The City. And since large numbers of dog owners have relied on those areas for decades, it is expected that they will start relying on other public spaces instead.

“There could certainly be potential impact on our parks,” said General Manager Phil Ginsburg of the Recreation and Park Department. “We look forward to having discussions with GGNRA about it.”

An aide for Supervisor Carmen Chu, who represents Sunset district dog owners whose use of Fort Funston and Ocean Beach would be greatly curtailed, said Chu is “concerned” about the dramatic proposal.

“We’re letting everyone know about the meetings coming up, and making people understand that they are going to make substantive changes,” Chu’s aide Cammy Blackstone said.

The San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its March 10 meeting. Commission Chairwoman Sally Stephens said she will recommend that her body urge the Board of Supervisors to oppose the federal plan.

The proposed restrictions were presented in a 2,388-page, 14-pound draft environmental impact statement that also outlined proposed rules for 12 additional open spaces in San Mateo and Marin counties. It represents an effort by the federal government to strike a balance between park landscape, native wildlife and the 16 million visitors — from dog owners to hang-glider pilots — who visit the open spaces each year.

At Crissy Field, for instance, where dogs currently roam on voice control over most of the waterfront, the proposed changes would restrict their range to about one-third the current area. The snowy plover, a threatened seabird, lives in the area and is often chased by off-leash dogs, according to the federal report.

Agency spokesman Howard Levitt noted that the mammoth proposal considered the likely environmental impact on surrounding parks. In the case of Crissy Field, the agency noted the presence of 22 other dog-use areas within a five-mile radius of the park, and concluded “it is unlikely that visitation by individual and commercial dog walkers in adjacent lands would increase as a result.”

But one dog advocate said she finds that conclusion ludicrous.

“You’re really going to have a very serious dispersion issue,” said Martha Walters, chairwoman of the Crissy Field Dog Walking Group, who hired a lawyer to analyze the federal plan. “Where are all the dogs going to go?”


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