Juneau dogs might run free soon on city land as long as they are under voice control.
At its Monday meeting, the Juneau Assembly changed the ordinance requiring dogs be leashed on all city parkland, allowing dogs to be off leash and under "competent voice control." The Assembly will hold a public hearing in late June, deciding on which trails dogs can be under just voice control.
According to the new ordinance, a person exercises "competent voice control" when the person is capable of directing all of the dog's activities by voice command and the dog follows all the vocal commands quickly and accurately. The person also has to monitor all of the dog's activities.
People who fail to keep their dogs under voice control could get a $25 ticket.
But Randy Wanamaker, the only Assembly member who voted against the ordinance, said most dogs don't follow voice control.
"I see dogs coming after people and their owners yelling at them. I also see dogs that are constantly aggressive," Wanamaker said. "It lessens the level of security that the current law has. I am concerned for the little children who walk home after school, mothers with strollers and runners and walkers."
Assembly member Merrill Sanford suggested the Dog Task Force look into the effectiveness of competent voice control. He said 10 years ago, a black Labrador jumped at his then 2-year-old granddaughter when they walked at Sandy Beach.
"The dog sat on top of her and licked her face," Sanford said. "It scared the hell out of her. But if the dog wasn't a friendly dog, that would be a horrible thing."
Chava Lee, executive director of Gastineau Humane Society, said enforcing the ordinance is difficult because there are only three enforcement officers. The city has more than 80 trails.
"We cannot be everywhere," said Lee, a member of the Dog Task Force. "For the most part, the dogs are not the problems. It is the owners that lack training."
A dog once jumped on Lee's 88-year-old mother.
To have space to train people and their dogs, the task force suggests the Assembly allocate ball fields at such areas as Anat'iyeik Park, Dimond Park, Savikko Park and Lena Loop Park for dog education.
The Assembly also struck out its regulation prohibiting dogs at the Twin Lakes Recreation Area in July and August.
The Parks and Recreation Department found the level of fecal coliform at Twin Lakes during July and August has not declined since the city prohibited dogs in the area.
"The primary source of the coliform is likely from the numerous drainages that empty into the lake rather than from dogs in the park," said Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Kiefer in a memo to the Assembly.
Kiefer said the Parks and Recreation will draft more regulations on where dogs would be on or off leash or prohibited. The regulations would be available for public comment in June.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.