Leash laws to be discussed

Dog owners in San Mateo who want the city to provide more off-leash opportunities are becoming impatient with a process that is taking into consideration everything from enforcement to the negative impacts of dogs roaming free on local athletic fields.

After months of discussion on the matter, Recreation and Park Commissioners are expected to vote in January on a proposal that would establish designated areas and times for dog owners to let their four-legged companions roam without a leash — at least for a trial period.

The city has a leash law in place that subjects dog owners to citation if a dog is off leash or on a leash that is longer than 6 feet, according to city officials.

A group of residents who want to be able to exercise their dogs off-leash at city parks without a fear of fines have been pushing for the change.

Carr Phillips, a member of the citizen group San Mateo Off-Leash Areas, said city officials are moving more slowly than the group had hoped.

“We all wish the wheels of government would work faster,” he said.

San Mateo has roughly 30 neighborhood and large community parks. Seal Point Park, located off Hart Clinton Drive on the San
Francisco Bay, is the only place with a designated dog park.

A proposal brought to park commissioners in November would also allow for dogs to be off-leash from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. in specified areas at four test parks: Bayside Joinville, Beresford, Central and Los Prados. Additionally, staff proposed allowing off-leash hours for dogs in the mornings, between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. at two ball fields: Fitzgerald and Chanteloup.

The idea of allowing dogs on athletic fields, possibly exposing those who use the grass areas to dog waste, has generated some concern. Enforcement of any new rules — keeping dogs out of undesignated areas or times not permitted for off-leash activity — is also a consideration, according to staff, who have suggested recruiting volunteers to help.

San Mateo Park and Recreation Manger Sheila Canzian, said a revised proposal is in the works and will be presented at the commission’s Jan. 6 meeting.

She declined to release specific details of the proposal.

Group members would like to have more off-leash areas than those proposed, said Phillips.

Off-leash areas provide benefits such as community building and allow for dog socialization, Phillips said.

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