San Francisco dog owners may see tightened leash laws 

After decades of running wild, the canine constituents of some of The City’s most popular dog-walking spots could be put on a leash by federal officials.

For years, informed pet owners have anticipated a report that will be released on Thursday suggesting where in Crissy Field, Fort Funston, Baker Beach and 18 other federal parks in San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties that dogs should not roam freely.

Officials with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area say dog owners are generally responsible, yet they view the forthcoming proposals as a way to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all park visitors.

“We are overwhelmed with users wanting to use these parks, trying to provide balance in recreation,” said Shirwin Smith, who has worked on the recreation area’s analysis for eight years. “Some people go to a national park because they don’t want to see any dogs at all.”

But canines outnumbered humans on Monday at Fort Funston, arguably The City’s most popular dog-walking park, where professionals sometimes manage 10 or more pups at a time. They may be required to put them all on leashes, which could potentially limit the number of dogs they can walk at one time.

The report is expected to juggle the needs of dog owners who want to let their dogs roam free, natural areas that need to be preserved, and people such as Kristin Daley, 42, who simply want to feel safe. “It freaks me out when I see a dog,” Daley said, walking in a group of people with two babies. “But it’s just an irrational fear.”

However, most park visitors have grown accustomed to rules requiring only that pups be responsive to their owners’ voice. “I keep a leash handy just in case,” said Nick Russell, 32, who let his black Chihuahua, Bella, roam Monday at Crissy Field. “But she’s less than 5 pounds. She’s harmless.” Russell suggested that perhaps the rules should just apply to dogs weighing more than 30 pounds.

About a dozen people at Crissy Field on Monday had their own suggestions — from fencing off areas for dogs to creating off-leash time restrictions. No one interviewed said they had experienced any problems with ferocious dogs.

Once the report is released, the recreation area will accept public comments for 90 days before considering the rules.

Doggedly digging in on hot debate

Park visitors at Crissy Field were mostly unaware of the upcoming changes, but definitely had some thoughts about the dog situation.

“I think dog people like knowing they have a place where they’re actually wanted ... I can see it from both sides.”
Harriett Redwine, Mill Valley

“I am just visiting from Brazil. I’ve seen many dogs today and they are not any trouble.”
Davison Storai Debarros

I don’t have a problem with them off-leash, I just have a problem with irresponsible dog owners … like when they let their dog shake sand off right next to me or a baby.”
Angie Gorr, San Francisco

“I only have a problem when the dogs poop and the owners don’t clean it up.”
Jeff Rose, San Francisco

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Kamala Kelkar

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