Thursday, December 01, 2005

Going to the dogs

Below is a note from a neighbor to which I can relate. But first, my perspective on the issue-->

I have two kids -- one who likes dogs and the other who is more hesitant. People on the street ate regularly saying, "Oh my dog loves kids."

Two issues with this way of thinking:
  1. The kids may not love dogs and don't welcome even a friendly face-filling slobber, and
  2. How does Mr. Dog Owner know how the pet might react when a 2 year old unexpectedly and mistakenly pokes the pooch in the eye?

Back to the note from a neighbor:
Last weekend in Holly Park, my son was charged by an unleashed dog. The dog's owner tried to call the dog back without success. My son,who is VERY comfortable with dogs, was terrified. In the ensuing commotion, everything turned out okay. The dog was probably more interested in the scent of our gold en retriever on my son than in anything else, but we were all pretty shaken, particularly Ben.

Upfront let me say that we currently have two dogs in our household and consider ourselves both pro-kid and pro-dog without any conflict. And a large portion of the unleashed dogs in Holly Park seem to be under voice control.

We also walk our dogs in Holly Park daily, but always on leash. (In fact, a year or so ago, we had a much more dangerous and difficult encounter when three unleashed dogs went after our dog on leash. The woman with the unleashed dogs couldn't control them, and we had to pull them apart from a pretty intense fight.)

Bottom line, I am not on a mission to get dogs out of leash-only Holly Park, but I have a hard time with owners ignoring this law(particularly when the top of the Hill off-leash area is just blocksaway.) And recent SF events have probably made us even more acutely uneasy at the sight of an unleashed dog approaching a child.

So, I'm hesitant to raise on old controversy, but I have a couple of questions around this issue.

* Has this happened to other people?
* Apparently, leash law enforcement either doesn't happen or doesn't work as a deterrent. (At a neighborhood safety meeting several months ago, concerns were voiced around unleashed dogs in Holly Park, and the police said that they try to enforce infractions. But, I think we can all agree that the police need to focus on other challenges.) Are there other ways to address this problem?
* Would an enclosed dog run for Holly Park deter the off-leash activity in the rest of the Park? Has that been the case at St. Mary's?
* If yes, was an enclosed dog run ever considered during the Holly Park renovation for any of the large, sloping open space on either side?
* And if a dog run was considered, why didn't it move forward? If not, how would we go about trying to get something like that started?

Apologies for the long message, but I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts.


Blogger MJ said...

Here's an even more concerning story that was just sent:

Closer to home--and this is important--on Saturday 11/12, one of my neighbors on Wool had the awful experience of watching her 2+year- old son bitten by a dog in front of Progressive Grounds. These folks are knowledgeable and asked the owner, who was there, if the child could approach the dog. The owner said, "Sure, he's really friendly." The bite, which broke the skin on the hand, occurred without any provoking behavior from the little boy.

8:59 AM  
Blogger KC said...

Wow. This figures to be a contentious discussion. I hope anything I say below won't fan the flames...

I am a dog owner and a dad of two who have grown up in Bernal. I walk my smallish, well trained dog off-leash in Holly Park -- usually twice a day. I am aware of the problem of uncontrolled dogs in the park. It is real. But I worry that any mitigation will not really solve the problem and will impact responsible dog owners like me.

Enforcement was heavy in the part recently. There were patrols inside the park, and on the periphery. I think it helped. At first I resented it, but I got over it and started carrying a leash. But you are right that it will not solve the problem.

The baseball diamond used to be used as an off-leash dog run. No more. The problem was that it became a magnet for 'commercial' dog walkers who would bring packs of dogs there. The field was trashed. It's not in much better shape now, and it is still under utilized as a baseball diamond. But I have to say that turning it into a dog run would not be appropriate, IMO. I don't really see where else you could place a dog run in that park.

I really don't know how to fix this. The problem dog owners are a small minority, and they will not be easy to reach. Part of me wants to suggest really draconian penalties for any harmful incidents. Dogs that bite should probably be destroyed. Owners should probably be dragged into civil court and made to pay.

Meanwhile I've gotten used to carrying my leash everywhere. When I see small kids and cops on the horizon I am able to command my dog to stop so I can leash her.

But that's neither the problem nor the solution.

10:32 AM  
Blogger brainhell said...

I think it is OK to allow dogs off leash in general areas, and to leave guns with live ammunition on the sidewalk. If any kid gets hurt, it's either their fault, or their parents are WAY to reactive.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with other people on this string.

Just back from Holly Park where I was walking my dog on leash. Two young women with 3-4 dogs all off leash--one large dog approached mine while they called and called. I got my dog away and moved on, as the big dog casually loped back in the owners' general direction. This dog clearly did not feel it needed to listen.

The two women were self-righteous when I told them their dogs should be leashed--even though they had little to no voice control over the largest dog.

Too many dog owners like this is a real problem. I wish the police were out there in force.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I want to tell you that when I was a kid in this neighborhood 20 years ago, I wouldn't walk in Holly Park with a leash from me to my parents! I cannot tell you of the killings and other horrors that have happened in that park. I was always told to stay out and the times I disobeyed, I learned my lesson real quick. Holly Park was the center point between three or four major projects in a poor area of San Francisco in the 80's. So now it is beautiful and relanscaped...
Well if you are wondering what I am rambling about...the bottom line is you should be able to get in front of your child regardless of what the danger is. If your kids are so far in front of you that a dog can run up to your child before you can, then you have to live with the consequences. Of course, you shouldnt have to run in between your child and a dog every time it runs up to you in a leash only area but... You can ban dogs in San Francisco and there are still going to be people with dogs out walking them. This si San Francisco.
Keep your kids close. It wasn't so long ago when people were dodging bullets and getting stabbed to death in Holly Park. And unfortunately our wonderful neighborhood is heading back in that same direction considering the state of our economy.
I dont want to sound depressing, I love dogs and I would want my own children safe and free from maurauding canines....but you moved into an area with dangers far greater that dogs scaring your children. Keep them close.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People should have birds instead of dogs. That way when the birds get sick, and we all get Bird Flu....we'll all die, and the dogs can run free.

4:24 PM  

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