The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has released its long-awaited Dog Management Plan, and will be taking public comment on the proposal for the next 90 days. The Wild Equity Institute’s Executive Director Brent Plater will be a guest on KQED’s Forum (88.5 FM) to discuss the plan Monday, January 17th at 9:00 a.m. You can bring your voice to the debate by calling 866-733-6786 or emailing email@example.com.
Weighing-in at over 2,000 pages and over six years in the making, bystanders might look at the plan and conclude that the GGNRA’s priorities are misplaced. If, for example, the GGNRA tackled more pressing environmental problems like climate adaptation this thoroughly, we might have a carbon neutral park by now.
Yet in other respects pet management contains the same moral dilemmas as our most pressing environmental problems:
- Who should bear the burden of activities conducted in National Parks: the individuals taking action or the public as a whole?
- When should individual entitlement take precedence over public responsibility?
- Does the Park have a duty to proactively protect park visitors from harm, or should the Park simply facilitate recompense after an injury has occurred?
These are common questions to most environmental problems, yet despite the plan’s length and delay, it still fails to address some basic problems with pet management at the GGNRA.
Off-leash dogs have long been negatively impacting people, our pets, wildlife, and park resources at the GGNRA. Imperiled wildlife like the western snowy plover are frequently harassed by off-leash dogs; guide dog users are regularly interfered with—and occasionally attacked—by off-leash dogs; and perhaps most alarmingly, hundreds of off-leash dogs have been lost, injured, or killed when they fall off cliffs, run into traffic, or otherwise lose their owners.
“The proposed plan contains some improvements, but fails in significant respects to protect people, our pets, wildlife, and park resources,” said Plater. “The first rule of good off-leash dog park design is to make sure our dogs are safe. But the dog play areas proposed by the Park Service do not contain safety barriers, do not require dog owners to certify that their dogs are trained before allowing them off leash, and the plan’s basic structure is to wait for park visitors to be injured before protective measures are put in place. We look forward to working with the Park Service to correct these obvious flaws before the plan is finalized.”
Sensible management measures like enclosing dog play areas with fences or other physical barriers can resolve many of these problems, and give park visitors the opportunity to choose off-leash dog experience on their own terms, rather than having the choice imposed upon them. Already animal welfare groups like the ASPCA, PETA, American Humane Association, Action for Animals, and Dogs Deserve Better have called for leash law enforcement at the GGNRA. Over the next 90 days you’ll have the opportunity to add your voice to theirs by submitting comments in support of leash law enforcement in the Park. Don’t delay: make your comments today!