The Dog Task Force will publish its final recommendations for dogs on trails in April, followed by a time for public comment. Citizens who would like to make informed comments on these recommendations are encouraged to continue reading news updates on the Dog Task Force at http://www.juneau.org/parksrec/ in March and April.
The Dog Task Force, established October 2003, is charged with examining the issues surrounding the presence of dogs in public open spaces; that is, sensitive wildlife areas, enforcement, signage and good etiquette for dogs and their owners.
This interagency working committee is comprised of 13 members representing the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska State Parks, Gastineau Humane Society, Trail Mix, Capital Kennel Club of Juneau, Juneau Police Department, Alaska State Fish and Game, Discovery Southeast, Juneau Parks and Recreation and three members of the public.
Hour-long meetings were held approximately every two weeks for the last four months during the noon hour with the intent of gathering ideas, data and making recommendations. Public input was allowed for five to 10 minutes before and following these working sessions.
During this process, the decision was made to establish smaller working groups on the topics of wildlife, education and trails.
The wildlife committee, chaired by Karla Hart of Alaska Fish and Game, was charged with reviewing literature relating to wildlife and dogs and, in addition, identifying sensitive areas and seasons. This group adopted the following problem statement: The pressure on wildlife continues to grow as Juneau's population increases and there is increased recreational activity on trails and open spaces. Of specific concern to the wildlife committee are: 1) wildlife and habitat disturbances associated with dogs; 2) interference by dogs with wildlife viewing and photography activities; and 3) access improvements (new or enhanced) that could bring more dogs into critical wildlife habitats.
Though participants in the committee acknowledged human-caused sources of disturbance to wildlife and wildlife viewers, they did not incorporate these concerns into their efforts because the committee was focused on dogs.
The trails committee, chaired by Susan McGregor of Capital Kennel Club of Juneau, was charged with researching what other communities have done and exploring areas in Juneau that would be suitable for dog activities. The trails mission statement was: "Increased use of trails, parks and other public lands is impacting the experience of many users. Contact between dogs and other users is increasing, and rules, regulations and enforcement policies are not clearly understood by the public. The special needs of dog users are not being addressed. The purpose of this committee is to address the issue of dog usage on trails, open spaces, parks and other public areas and to provide recommendations on usage to the Dog Task Force."
You can read the wildlife and trail committees recommendations regarding specific areas used by dogs and their owners at: http://www.juneau.org/parksrec/dtf.php - See Subcommittee Reports - Drafts - 3/1/04.
The Dog Task Force Committee has already met once to review these documents and make final recommendations. It will conclude this process on March 30, at noon, in the Assembly Chambers. Parks and Recreation hopes to have the final recommendations available for public comment within a week. Packages of the final recommendations will be available at its office, Web site and at the three libraries. Also, advertisements and public service announcements will run for 21 days soliciting public comment. A final public comment meeting hopefully will occur by the end of April. Grateful Dogs strongly recommends you attend this meeting and voice your concerns regarding the dogs on trails issue.
The education committee, chaired by Chava Lee of the Gastineau Humane Society, was charged with developing a code of ethics for Juneau dog owners, developing a plan to share this code of ethics, identifying incentives to ensure voluntary compliance and summarizing current laws, in tandem with Gastineau Humane Society and CBJ. They have chosen to defer their mission statement until the public reviews the Dog Task Force's final recommendations, and the final outcome is decided. They will then use public service announcements through newspapers, television and radio and schools to educate the community as to the new directives.
Linda Shipman can be contacted at email@example.com