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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Offleash Laws to Favor Dog Walkers Who Make a Profit

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 5:34 PM

click to enlarge Get ready for a lot more of this.
  • Get ready for a lot more of this.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors might gripe about the seemingly onerous plan to severely restrict dogs from roaming offleash in areas owned by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

But when it comes to that key question of how to handle dogwalkers who herd packs of dogs for profit, the Park Service seems unusually lenient.

For years, the park stewards have tried to create a policy that limits free-roaming dogs in some areas. In San Francisco, where dogs far outnumber children, the Park Service's seemingly cromulent dog-reining effort has seen a backlash. 

Yet those who walk dogs for a living seem to have been spared, and they are actually treated kindly under the proposed rules.

Each commercial dog walker would be allowed up to six dogs in certain park areas, as long as the animals are kept under "voice control," which means owners should be able to stop their pups from disturbing people and wildlife with a shout.

In San Francisco parks, it's not unusual to see commercial dogwalkers trotting behind a pack of curs, which, in my experience, can turn into a dangerous situation. My young children were attacked three times by park-roaming dog packs who were supposedly being supervised by professionals.

In sensitive natural areas, the situation is even worse. Not only are humans at risk of dog bites, but the pack-frenzied canines can attack wildlife, not to mention degrade the habitat with dog poop. All of this generally makes a visit to the park an unpleasant experience for those of us who are not accompanied by a dog.

Why would the Park Service allow such a situation to persist? According to the NPS, "this alternative was selected because it provides a park-wide opportunity for visitors with more than three dogs to experience GGNRA."

For obvious reasons, environmental groups, and even the middle-of-the-road editorial writers with the Chronicle have called foul on San Francisco's peculiar let-curs-run-everywhere extremism. It's long been known that free-roaming dogs wreak havoc on wildlife.

If the National Park Service is going to permit a commercial activity that is known to harm wildlife, why not allow more benign commercial activities in these natural areas, like massage parlors or stands selling egg rolls on a stick?

According to Jake Sigg of the California Native Plant Society, allowing commercial dogwalking in national parks amounts to a giveaway of public patrimony to private, profitable interests.

In an e-mail Tuesday, Sigg says:

Commercial dogwalking has never been legally permitted on any of our national park lands. Commercial dogwalking will impact all park-user groups and set a dangerous precedent for all national parks!

Commercial dogwalking provides no service or benefit to any park users. In fact, commercial dogwalking will displace park visitors, of all user groups, from trails and other areas of the park. Commercial dogwalking serves only for the capital gain of private enterprises at the expense of the American public. 

The costs of administering and overseeing a permitting process, additional law enforcement, additional resource maintenance, additional public relations will be paid for by the American tax payer! If permitted, it is estimated that commercial dogwalking will bring over 1,000 dogs to the GGNRA and net more than $30,000 for dogwalking businesses daily! 

Say No! Speak up now and tell the National Park Service to keep commercial dogwalking out of our national parks. Comments are due by May 29, 2011 and can be submitted online at

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Matt Smith


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