1. Right vs Privilege and Dog-Owners Responsibility
In the U.S. Constitution there is no right to own a dog. In my opinion, the City of Seattle is under no obligation to provide off-leash areas. Individual dog owners should take personal responsibility, for the environment in which they live, and the type of dog suited to that environment.
In other words, if a citizen is foolish enough to buy a dog, which they feel “needs” to run freely in a large open area, it should not be the responsibility of the tax-payer or the Seattle Parks Department to restrict large areas of the parks for their exclusive use.
2. OLA’s Successes and Failures-Original Purposes
In 1992, I proposed setting up Off-Leash Areas to City Councilor Cheryl Chow as a result of incidents, at the Volunteer Park Reservoir running track and because my 10-month old baby had been attacked, by three unleashed dogs, in the wadding pool in VP in 1991.
The raison d’être of OLA’s was two-fold. To contain off-leash activity and to provide legal spaces for responsible dog owners to play with their dogs and let them run.
In fact, OLA’s have never contained off-leash activity. There had always been off-leash activity in the park. In some parks there was environmental damage.
Also according to Seattle Municipal Code 18.12.070 it is “unlawful and to ..destroy , mutilate, deface…lawn…any shrub…tree…plant..flower.” In a Seattle park. OLA’s have destroyed grass and lawns
The OLA in Volunteer Park (behind SAAM) clearly violated clause 18.12.070 of the SMC and the Charter of Olmstead Parks because erecting a fence in an Olmstead Park is prohibited.
3. Successful OLA’s
Magnuson Park ,Genesee Park and the small area at Pine and I-5 are examples of OLA’s which have not taken park land away from people, and have not created environmental damage. However at Magnusson there is always spill over, i.e. people leave the parking lot with their dogs off the leash.
OLA’s in non-park land does not seem to be a problem, as long as tax-payers do not have to subsidize unlicensed dogs.
4. Environmental Damage-Failed OLA’s Volunteer Park and Golden Gardens
The Volunteer Park behind the museum OLA was an unmitigated disaster. Initially a one year “pilot project” it was voted to be closed in 1996 after one year.
Even after massive environmental damage, due to the heavy rains in the winter of 1998-99, and a faulty Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) Ken Bounds, the Mayor and the City Council refused to close it until Citizen’s for the Protection of Volunteer Park (CPVP) filed suit.
SPR violated the law by opening a new OLA site without going through the WA state required change of use process, or obtaining the required Determination of Non-Significance. They also erected another fence in an Olmstead Park.
King County Superior Court ruled in favor of CPVP. The legal fees of $30,000, were paid by CPVP.
There has been massive damage to Golden Gardens as a result of a steep slope, over-use and off-leash spill over as a result of the OLA. (see Appendix. A Letter from CPVP’s attorney RE: Golden Gardens )
5. Environmental Issues-Ban Dogs from all Beaches
“Officials in Seattle consider waste from the city’s million dogs to be a major pollution source of Puget Sound. Dogs have also been show to be a major source of water contamination in Clearwater, FL; Arlington, VA and Boise,ID.”
Jennifer M. April 21, 2012, http://www.care2.com/causes/u-s-waters-polluted-by-10-million-tons-of-dog-poop.html. Page 2
Seattle and the State of Washington are known for being champions of the environment. Since dogs are not toilet trained, dog feces pollute water, the same as goose feces, it contributes to the growth of milfoil, and the fecal coliform level.
The parasites from worms, which grow in dog feces actually kill fish such as salmon. NB there is no vaccination for worms. These parasites can spread to small children and babies.
It makes little sense to expend resources to combat goose feces if dogs are allowed in the water.
See Appendix Bhttp://www.care2.com/causes/u-s-waters-polluted-by-10-million-tons-of-dog-poop.html
6. Ban Dogs from Parks adjoining Beaches.
The lifeguards are not equipped to act as Animal Control at Parks like Madison Park Beach, where dogs are allowed, but t not on the beaches. Regularly the dogs enter the water; the lifeguards are not equipped to enforce dog ordinances, at the same time, that they are ensuring the safety of the swimmers.
7. Ban Unlicensed Dogs-Make OLA’s accessible only to Licensed Dogs
There should be no additional OLA’S until 100% of dog owners license their pets.
Seattle should create a pass key system so that only Licensed dogs can use the OLA’s
Since I have been tracking the statistics, (1990) less than 20% of dog owners have ever licensed their dogs, causing the general fund to subsidize Seattle Animal Control, by 1/3 of the budget every year There are an estimated 200,000 dogs in the city of Seattle, only 39,527 dogs are licensed. That means there are 160,000 dogs are unlicensed.
License paying dog-owners and non-dog owning tax-payers are subsidizing unlicensed dogs.
The 28 acres of OLA’s are sufficient for the number of LICENSED dogs.
8. Prohibit Commercial Dog-Walkers from using OLA’s
When were commercial dog-walkers ever given permission to use off-leash areas?
Day-care centers are not allowed to use the indoor playroom at Greenlake Community Center, nor are Outdoor Theatre Companies, using the park, allowed to charge admission, By the same logic, commercial dog-walkers should not be allowed to use off-leash areas.
Dog-Walkers can always buy private land for their dogs, just like private day-care centers buy private buildings for their businesses.
9. Safety-One Dog Per Owner
One Dog Per Owner Policy
In order to maintain safety in the OLA’s there should only be a one-dog per owner policy, because of the canine pack mentality. Dogs live in groups (packs) and within that group there is a hierarchy, which is established by fighting for dominance.
In a stable pack the hierarchy is long-standing; however when a new group of dogs get together, there is an immediate need to establish dominance and submission in the new pack. Fighting is inevitable. A dog fight can be phycially broken up if there is a one dog to one owner ratio. This is why so many vets and breeders do not recommend Off-leash areas.
The only way to make them safe is to have a one dog-one owner policy.
10. Population Increase
Population increase means more park land for people not dogs.
In 1995, when the OLA’s were set up, Seattle’s population was 530,379. In 2015, the population was 684, 451. That means an increase of over 150,000 people. This means that we need more park land for people. Adding more OLA’s in Parks will take away acres of park land for people.
11. Other Park Users Needs
Dogs running in the park is the # 1 complaint about parks
It is important to remember that in the meetings in early 2016, the number one complaint in the parks was the number of off leash dogs running in the parks.
COLA and “the dog lobby” may be organized, vocal and get a lot of good press, however the blatant disregard for the law, the lack of enforcement and the acquiesce by City Council, every time dog owners want additional OLA’s, undermines volunteering in Parks. Park’s Stewards, gardeners for Volunteer Park Trust feel discouraged that preserving the parks, for people is less of a priority than creating additional OLA’s.
12. Decrease the Number & Size of Dogs permitted in Seattle
If COLA feels that there are too many dogs for the number of OLA’s, it does not necessarily follow that we should add additional OLA’s, rather we should DECREASE the number of dogs.
According the SMC, three dogs are allowed per household. There is no restriction on the size of dog. If only one dog were allowed per household, it would decrease the pressure on OLA’s
Also, many people, ignorant of canine behavior, acquire hunting, herding and retrieving dogs, unsuitable for life in a city, legislation should be passed to discourage these dogs in favor of smaller dogs, more suitable for the city.
13. Are OLA’S Necessary -Veterinarians Opinions
I have never seen any specific evidence-based research, from named veterinarians or named animal control scientists, saying that dogs cannot get adequate exercise while walking or running with their owners on a leash.
In fact, the breeder/ veterinarian from whom I bought my daughter’s Corgi, made it a condition of the sale, that we did not take the dog to an OLA.
14. Pit bull Advocate – Ban Pit Bulls from OLA’s
Pit bull Rescue is a Pit bull advocacy site. They do not recommend taking Pit bulls to off-leash areas.
“PBRC does not recommend dog parks or dog daycares. There are a number of reasons why:
While dogs can learn good social skills at a daycare or park, they can just as easily learn poor social skills in these largely unsupervised situations….. Dogs in a pack act very differently than they do individually; even a ….well-socialized dog of good temperament can be drawn into “pack behavior.”
http://www.pbrc.net/socializing.html see Appendix C
Along with several other OLA users I believe that Pit bulls should be banned from using Seattle’s OLA’s. See petition. Appendix D
A normal dog has jaw pressure of 200-400 lbs, Pit bulls have 2,000 lbs. they can inflict far more damage than other dogs. They were bred to fight dogs.
I personally have met several people in the parks who apologize for having their dogs off leash, but say their dogs have been injured by Pit bull attacks in OLA’s and they will not use them anymore. If the foremost advocate for Pitbulls does not recommend them, then I think that SPR should defer to their judgement.
Appendix B http://www.care2.com/causes/u-s-waters-polluted-by-10-million-tons-of-dog-poop.html
Appendix C http://www.pbrc.net/socializing.html
August 24, 2016
Jesús Aguirre, Superintendent
Seattle Parks and Recreation
100 Dexter Avenue North
Seattle, WA 98109
Holly Miller, Director
Office for Education at City of Seattle
700 5th Ave #1700
Seattle, WA 98104
RE: Off-Leash Dogs at Golden Gardens Park
Dear Mr. Aguirre and Ms. Miller:
I represent Ellen Taft. Ms. Taft was the president of Citizen’s for the Protection of Volunteer Park, when that organization, filed suit with the city to close down the Volunteer Park off-leash dog area that was damaging specimen trees that were selected and planted when the Olmsted Brothers designed Volunteer Park. During that period, dogs were tearing-up the grass and impairing the viability of such specimen trees. Volunteer Park, because of its Olmsted design, is known as the crown jewel of Seattle parks.
Golden Gardens’ design was heavily influenced by the Olmsted Brothers. It is located in the Ballard area of Seattle. Like the Olmsted-designed parks, it takes advantage of marine views – as the Olmsted brothers recommended – such views were incorporated as “borrowed landscapes.”
Recently, it has come to Ellen Taft’s attention that dogs are running free in areas far removed from the designated off-leash area at Golden Gardens. Such dogs run free on a slope; they have destroyed the grass and that, in turn, will cause erosion during the winter months.
The Seattle Municipal Code (“SMC”) flatly prohibits dogs from running free in areas other than designated off-leash areas. SMC §18.12.025 warns that “unlawful and inappropriate behavior diminishes these precious resources.” SMC §18.12.070 declares that it is unlawful for any person “to… destroy, mutilate, deface… lawn… any shrub… tree… plant… flower.”
Here, off-leash dogs that are running free in an ad hoc off-leash dog area in Golden Gardens are causing serious damage to historic park landscaping. Although there is a designated, fenced off-leash area, individuals who allow their dogs to run free in areas of the park with manicured landscaping are threatening and destroying such landscaping. Dog urine is impairing the specimen trees. Dogs running around on the lawn are destroying it. This activity needs to stop. Our parks are a precious resource. Please enforce the City of Seattle’s ordinances. We need to preserve our historic parks.
Very truly yours,
LAND USE & PROPERTY LAW, PLLC