Dog panel's trail plan irks both sides

Pet owners seek fewer restrictions; others say leashes are a must on trails

Posted: Friday, June 10, 2005

Dog owners and non-dog owners alike aren't happy with the Dog Task Force's revised proposal on which city trails or parks dogs should be leashed or prohibited.

The task force listened to public comments on the plan at a meeting Thursday night at Centennial Hall. About 10 people commented on the proposal.

Dog owners demanded to know the task force's rationale for requiring dogs to be on leash all the time in places such as the Rainforest Trail, in north Douglas, and the paved part of the Kaxdigoowu Heen Dei trail, near the Brotherhood Bridge. But some residents said they are tired of being harassed by dogs and want them to be required on leash on all city trails.

"People say their dogs are just being friendly," said Kim Mix, who supports leashing dogs. "Friendly is a two-way street. I don't want to be friendly with your dogs."

Phillip Gray, who wants dogs to be leashed, said he doesn't want dogs to slobber on him or knock him down.

Dog owners said they want more freedom for their dogs.

Sandy Warner, who owns an 8-year-old Australian shepherd, said the changes in the new proposal disappointed her. The previous proposal allowed dogs to be off leash below logs at the high tide line on Sandy Beach. The new proposal requires dogs to be on leash until they pass a creek in the park.

"I see nothing to justify that," Warner said.

Andy McGregor said the task force should impose seasonal regulations on Rainforest Trail. McGregor said it is the only trail in north Douglas on which it is safe to walk dogs.

"I support having dogs on leash between April and September, because it is heavily used by locals and tourists in summer," McGregor said. "In winter, dogs should be allowed to be off leash."

Ken Post, who often walks his dog on the Brotherhood Bridge trail, suggested dogs be off leash in the early morning, when few people use it.

Task force member Diane Cathcart, who works for city Parks and Recreation, said the changes resulted from the task force's efforts to strike a balance among different users. She said the task force decided to restrict dogs on Sandy Beach because the city has received complaints about dogs running over people's blankets or stealing food.

Cathcart said the new proposal didn't include daily or seasonal time for people to walk their dogs off leash because it didn't want to confuse people.

Task force member Perry Shipman said many problems can be fixed by educating dog owners.

"It's about good citizenship," said Shipman, president of Grateful Dogs, a group that advocates responsible dog ownership and organizes events to pick up dog waste from trails.

Chava Lee, executive director of Gastineau Humane Society, suggested that some Republicans can help clean Juneau trails when they pick up the flags of Gov. Frank Murkowski. An anonymous person or group has stuck hundreds of tiny flags of Murkowski's face in piles of dog excrement along Juneau's trails and parks.

"They pick up the signs but they leave the poop," Lee said.

The proposed regulations are still subject to change. The task force will accept public comments on the regulations until June 17. It will meet June 24 at the downtown library.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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