I have a hard time hiding my shock and dismay about the article, "Panel Proposes Changes in Leash Law." I could not believe that "the panel" would use the disguise of wildlife conservation to ban dogs from trails. Simply walking down any trail in Juneau is going to disturb wildlife. According to a study entitled "Wildlife responses to pedestrians and dogs" in the Wildlife Society Bulletin 29(1): 124-132, Miller, Knight and Miller found that off-leashed dogs had no more effect on birds than humans do without dogs. Does this mean we should think about banning humans from the trail to conserve wildlife?
If the panel is truly concerned about wildlife conservation, why is it only focusing on dogs? There is another domestic predator that has extensive documentation of wildlife harassment and killing - the cat. According to our city's laws, cats are allowed to roam free in our streets and countryside without supervision or even a license. In a study by Coleman and Temple (entitled "On the Prowl" published in Wisconsin Natural Resources 20(6): 4-8), they estimated that free-roaming cats kill between 8 and 219 million birds a year in Wisconsin alone. It has been estimated that cats nationwide kill over a billion small mammals and hundreds of millions of birds a year. I do not want to be accused of being anti-cat; so, for the record I own an indoor cat.
Also, why is the panel not looking at education as a way to solve the problems people have with dogs? It seems to me that banning dogs from certain trails is a very drastic first step in conserving wildlife. Education has barely been given a chance to work on this issue. Hunting has been allowed to continue on the Mendenhall Wetlands because greater efforts in educating the hunters about safe hunting practices have been put into play. Despite a few incidences, education has had a positive impact. Many dog owners are conservation minded and belong to different environmental groups. The city should not alienate this large group for the sake of a few noisemakers.
I would also like to agree with Karen Webster's letter, "Dogs aren't the problem on trails." The real problem on the trails is trash. I am sick and tired of all the trash I find on the trail. I know that my dog is not bringing plastic containers, glass, wrappers and condoms on the trail. He does help pick them up though, in his own way. I carry poop bags with me to pick up his "landmines." It is these bags I have used on numerous occasions to pick up and carry these carelessly discarded items off the trail.
I wish the Dog Task Force would simply stop hiding what they really are - anti-dog. I know that there are dog owners on the panel and I have no idea why they stopped fighting for dog owners. Since our representatives will not stand up for dog owners, dog owners must band together and fight for our rights. We cannot be willing to let a few anti-dog people treat us like second-class citizens. If we allow these areas to be closed, what will stop the next wave of trail-closings? Educating dog owners about various ways dogs adversely impact the environment and other users can dramatically reduce the problems on Juneau's trails.
Denise K. Wolvin is a Douglas resident who has her bachelor's of science in fisheries and wildlife from the University of Minnesota and adopted a dog and cat from the Gastineau Humane Society.
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