Feds untangling leash laws at popular parks

A long-running debate in The City with a lot of ear-perking words — leash laws, dogs and federal land — is about to heat up again.

The impassioned — dog owners who believe well-behaved canines are entitled to roam free and others who say all dogs need to be leashed — are on edge while the Golden Gate National Recreation Area develops rules for some of the most popular dog-walking parks in The City. 

The environmental impact statement for parks such as Fort Funston and Crissy Field, scheduled to be released in November or earlier, is intended to provide a clear, enforceable policy on the manner and extent of dog use in “appropriate” areas.

Kite fliers, hang gliders, native plants and animals don’t always mix well with unleashed dogs, park officials said.

“They will be assessing not only the impacts to resources but also the impacts to other visitor groups. We have a responsibility to not only protect resources, but to balance to provide access for everyone,” recreation area spokeswoman Shirwin Smith said.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area began work on the report following a 2005 court ruling that it couldn’t begin enforcing a policy banning unleashed dogs without first going through a public review process. The rules had not been enforced for decades.

When the report is issued, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area will allow at least 90 days for public comment before making policy changes official, Smith said.

To prepare owners for the report’s release, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and several dog-walking groups have launched a website, www.eco-dog.org, with Golden Gate National Recreation Area maps and resources.

“We anticipate it’s going to be more restrictive. That’s why we want people to really see it before it’s out,” said Martha Walters, chair of the SPCA’s Crissy Field Dog Group, who wrote a majority of the site’s content.

But in the meantime, both Smith and Walters encouraged reviewing what www.eco-dog.org has to offer.

“There’s a lot of good info on there and I know [owners] are sort of waiting with bated breath to know what we come out with,” Smith said.

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