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For Immediate Release August 16th, 2005

Coalition Petitions for Leash Law Enforcement at GGNRA

Leash Laws Effectively Protect People, Pets, Wildlife, and the Park

Contact:Brent Plater (415) 436-9682 x
Myths and Facts about off-leash dogs at the GGNRA

San Francisco, CA—A coalition of 10 animal welfare, wildlife conservation, child welfare, and park volunteer organizations filed a formal emergency petition today asking the National Park Service to implement and enforce leash laws at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) within 60 days. Federal Regulations require dogs to be leashed or otherwise physically restrained in the National Park System. The GGNRA is the only unit of the National Park System known not to enforce leash laws throughout the park.

Leash laws provide important safeguards for people, our pets, wildlife, and our parks, and the National Park System’s leash law has effectively protected every other unit of the National Park System—while providing access for dogs with responsible owners—for decades.

Leash laws are also widely supported by Bay Area residents. In a recent poll of Bay Area residents sponsored by the GGNRA, over 71 percent of respondents said they support the leash laws that protect the GGNRA. This is in part recognition of the GGNRA’s irreplaceable biological treasures: the park contains more imperiled species than Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite National Parks combined.

Unfortunately, GGNRA administrators failed to enforce leash laws in vast portions of the park for many years. As a result, hundreds of dogs have been lost, injured, or killed at the GGNRA; dozens of imperiled species have been harassed or harmed; people have been charged, bitten, and excluded from the park; and the GGNRA’s purposes and goals are now threatened.

The petition documents nearly 100 of these incidents, culled from the past five years of GGNRA records alone. Because of poor-record keeping by the GGNRA, the National Park Service believes that many more incidents have gone unreported. Yet even with limited data, Park Service biologists have concluded that off-leash dogs pose “the most significant recreational threat” to imperiled birds such as the snowy plover.

The groups have filed the petition in response to a recent court decision that has undermined the Park Service’s ability to enforce the leash law at several areas within the GGNRA. The GGNRA recently announced that it may form a negotiated rulemaking committee to implement leash laws. However, if this committee is formed, it will not be able to issue a recommendation until 2007, and rules may not be in place until 2008. In the meantime, people, pets, sensitive wildlife within the park, and the park itself would go unprotected. The petitioners are asking the Park Service to initiate emergency rulemaking procedures to restore leash law enforcement at the GGNRA on an interim basis.

The formal administrative petition was filed by Guide Dogs for the Blind, Action for Animals, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, Environmental Quality for Urban Parks, Center for Biological Diversity, Golden Gate Audubon Society, San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, Yerba Buena Chapter of the California Native Plant Society, Dune Ecological Restoration Team, and San Francisco League of Conservation Voters.
Quotes from Co-Petitioners:

Jan Blum, Dune Ecological Restoration Team:
“ As devoted pet owners and habitat restoration volunteers we can perhaps, more than most, appreciate the need to control dogs from destroying a large part of what makes our Park so very stunning and loved by people from everywhere in the world. Humans have to control their dogs in order that the dogs, and all of us, can continue to enjoy this jewel and prevent needless accidents. To do otherwise is irresponsible.”

David Robinson, representative for Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth:
“Children can’t play where large dogs are allowed to run loose,” Areas that are open to off-leash dogs are essentially closed to kids and other people who are physically vulnerable.”

Brent Plater, Center for Biological Diversity, 415-572-6989:
“ While some have called for an outright ban on dogs at the GGNRA, we believe that such a drastic measure is unwarranted. The petition proposes a middle-ground solution keyed to responsible dog ownership, and if implemented and enforced it will ensure that people, our pets, wildlife, and the park will be protected.”

Eric Mills, coordinator for Action for Animals, 510-652-5603:
“ As a long-time advocate for animals, both wild and domestic, it has become increasingly clear to me that off-leash dogs should be barred from the GGNRA and similar sensitive areas, especially where threatened or endangered species are concerned. At the same time, it should be incumbent upon all concerned to find more suitable areas for needed off-leash dog activities.”

Norman La Force, Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter Off-Leash Dog Co-coordinator, 415-227-2300:
“ The Sierra Club supports enforcement of regulations concerning off-leash dog activities in the GGNRA in order to protect the natural resources of the GGNRA and so all users can use the park. The regulations were created to ensure that all users could enjoy the beauty of the GGNRA and so natural resources, especially birds could be protected from impacts from human and pet intrusion.”

Steven Krefting, board member, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters:
“ San Franciscans are quite fortunate to have a park with the incredible landscapes, plant and animal life of the Golden Gate National Parks right at their doorstep. Enforcing leash laws in the parks is essential to preserving these valuable treasures for future generations.”

Jake Sigg, Yerba Buena Chapter of the California Native Plant Society:
“ The GGNRA is responsible for protecting the people's resources--its mission--and it must have the tools to effect this protection. We think a leash law is needed to do this.”

Elizabeth Murdock, Golden Gate Audubon Society, 510-843-9912 or 510-301-0570:
“ The GGNRA is an outstanding national park, both in the wildlife it contains and its proximity to a major urban area. But impacts from off-leash dogs are degrading the park and threatening its imperiled wildlife—including species like the Western snowy plover. We urge the park service to take action to protect this national treasure now.”

Arnold Levine, Environmental Quality for Urban Parks, 415-584-7345:
“ The lack of leash law enforcement in the GGNRA sadly mirrors the similar situation in San Francisco’s neighborhood parks and its few fragile natural areas that remain. Rampant illegal off-leash use without enforcement has made many parks unusable for any other legitimate purpose. Off leash-everywhere-all-of-the-time has been a disaster for humans, dogs, wildlife and the social fabric of the City. Don’t let it happen to the GGNRA.”


Guide Dogs for the Blind has joined with other community leaders in a petition for emergency rulemaking to request that the Golden Gate Recreation Area implement and enforce the leash law that is currently in effect at all other units of the National Park System. The organization supports the rights of the disabled who use guide dogs or service animals to access all public spaces, in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Loose dogs represent a clear threat to the safety, and hence the access rights, of people with disabilities. A 2003 survey of blind people who use guide dogs was conducted by Guide Dog Users, Inc., and revealed that 42% of respondents had experienced at least one dog attack and 89% experienced interference by loose dogs. Findings also showed that the vast majority (nearly 85%) of interference/attacks occurred on a public right-of-way, highlighting the need to enforce leash laws to ensure the rights of the disabled to use and enjoy public thoroughfares, including those within the National Park System.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is a national organization, dedicated to providing people who are blind with the opportunity to experience what a powerful partnership with a Guide Dog can mean - not only to mobility, but to quality of life.


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