Be fair to dogs

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2004

A number of leash-requirement areas are being proposed by the Dog Task Force, including Gastineau Peak above the tram and areas within the Mendenhall State Game Refuge. The area above the tram was proposed by the Wildlife Subcommittee as a wildlife viewing area. Yet with a thousand tourists trampling the area each day, it is far less diverse than similar alpine areas. It appears that we are being asked to leash our dogs in order to benefit patrons of a commercial tourist facility.

My dog and I frequently run the Mount Roberts Trail to the cross above the tram terminal and occasionally traverse from Sheep Creek over Mount Roberts and down Gastineau Peak. I refuse to increase the risk of injury to myself and others by negotiating these trails with a leashed dog.

I might sympathize with Mendenhall Wetland restrictions, given that the refuge does provide extraordinary habitat for a large variety of wetland bird species, but dog harassment of wildlife already constitutes a violation of state law. Moreover, dogs have been a feature of the dike trail for a very long time, and bird numbers and diversity remain high. Dog disturbance seems trivial compared to habitat destruction.

It seems to me that dog owners have a responsibility to care for, exercise and clean up after their pets, and to prevent them from bothering other people. The City and Borough of Juneau has a responsibility to allow people to keep their pets healthy, safe and sane, so that they don't end up abandoned or dumped at the shelter.

Having had some concerns about the CBJ further limiting the options of dog owners, I attended the initial meeting of the task force. By then, all the task force members had been pre-selected to include mostly agency staff and one representative each from the humane society and the kennel club. Only two dog-owning members from the public were selected.

Members of the task force worked very hard, and although some of the task force recommendations are silly or even offensive, some are improvements. Some would actually allow dogs to play ball or Frisbee in a few of our neighborhood parks (at certain times of the day or certain times of the year). Regardless of this breakthrough, I am disappointed that the task force squandered the opportunity to significantly improve opportunities for people to play with their dogs.

Andy Grossman


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