Dogs’ becoming major threat’ to wildlife

12 February 2019

A free-ranging dog chases a blackbuck in Vetnoi of Indian state of OrissaImage by Pitam Chattopadhyay 
Protected species like blackbuck are attacked by feral and free-ranging dogs

They may be our “best friends” but dogs have also emerged as a major threat to wildlife.

Scientists say they have contributed to the extinction of nearly one dozen wild bird and animal species.

As such, they have become the third worst human-introduced predators after cats and rats.

Now dogs are said to threaten nearly 200 species worldwide, some of which are critically endangered, studies suggest.

And yet, feral and free-ranging dogs have received surprisingly little attention, conservationists say.

In a recent study carried out on dogs in Chile, the authors said: “Conservationists in Chile and elsewhere see urgency in controlling the impact of free-ranging dogs on wildlife.”

It found dog owners were not concerned about the issue and many allowed their pets to move freely in the wild.

“Predation and harassment by dogs has been documented for the majority of larger terrestrial mammals that inhabit Chile, including the three species of canids (mammals from the dog family) and three species of deer,” Eduardo Silva-Rodriguez, one of the authors of the study, told the BBC.

Dogs attack a spotted deer in Karnata state of south IndiaImage VikasPatil
Dogs are competing with other predators

One billion dogs

There are an estimated one billion domestic dogs worldwide and their conditions range from feral and free-ranging to entirely dependent on humans.

There is no definitive figure for feral and free-ranging dogs, but conservationists say their number is definitely rising.

“It’s quite a matter of serious concern,” Piero Genovesi, head of the invasive species specialist unit at the IUCN conservation body, told the BBC.

“As the human population rises, so will the number of dogs, and this problem could get worse.”

Attack dogs in the wild

Dogged species

Of the around 200 species said to be threatened by feral and free-ranging dogs, 30 are classed as critically endangered, 71 endangered, and 87 vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of at-risk species.

Nearly half of these species are mammals, 78 of them are birds, 22 reptiles and three amphibians.

The most affected regions are parts of Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean and parts of Oceania, according to a study published in Biological Conservation.

Experts say abandoned dogs and those that are allowed to roam freely are the real problems.

Many impacts

They are said to affect wildlife in five general ways.

They become predators and kill wild animals, disturb the ecosystem, transmit diseases to wildlife, compete with them for prey, and also interbreed with closely related species.

“Through our camera traps we have found that dogs enter caves where lynx take the prey animals they have killed, and we have footage showing dogs eating the carcasses,” said Izabela Wierzbowska, a scientist at the Jagiellonian University in Poland.

“We have also noticed that the lynx gets very disturbed when it finds out that there was another predator in the cave feeding on its prey.”

Studies have shown that dogs contributed to the extinction of at least eight species of birds, including the New Zealand quail.

Pictures of feral dogs hounding and killing endangered species in different parts of the world have also emerged on social media.

A blue bull is attacked by free-ranging dogs in Rajasthan state of IndiaNandakumar M N
There has been no proper count of feral and free-ranging dogs


Among the most striking ones are a snow leopard hounded by three feral dogs in Tibet and a polar bear surrounded by three free-ranging dogs.

In Chile, nearly 70% of pudu, the world’s tiniest deer, that were brought to rehabilitation centres were attacked by dogs, according to a study published in the scientific journal Oryx.

A study in more than 30 national parks of Brazil found that 37 native species were affected by the presence of domestic dogs.

In India’s Rajasthan state, less than 100 great Indian bustards, an endangered species, remain and even they are being threatened by dogs.

“This problem has been going on and growing in the Indian Himalayan region for more than 10 years now,” says Abi Vanak an invasive species expert, who has authored a number of reports on the issue.

He is now studying how far dogs get into tiger reserves in India.

Dogs and diseases

Some experts say that wildlife in many parts of the world have been hit by the transfer of diseases from dogs – and this is much the more significant problem.

“Direct poaching by dogs is less of a threat, but the main issue is the spread of diseases from dogs to wild animals, notably rabies and canine distemper,” said Arnulf Koehncke, director of species conservation with WWF in Germany.

“There have been repeated outbreaks of these diseases among critically endangered Ethiopian wolves, for instance, as well as of rabies in India and Nepal.”

Free-ranging dogs attacking migratory gulls in Frazergunj of IndiaPitam Chattopadhyaya
Scientists say dogs have contributed to the extinction of several bird species

Wolf problem

In Europe, experts say, the problem is a bit different.

They are worried that feral and free ranging dogs are interbreeding with wolves.

“And that poses a threat to wolves,” says Moritz Klose, from WWF.

“If this continues to grow, we will lose the purity of our wolves’ genes.”

Killing controversy

Killing of feral and free-ranging dogs as a solution has been quite controversial and has been banned in several countries.

“Killing campaigns to reduce or eliminate dog populations is not only inhumane but ineffective, creating a population vacuum that is quickly filled by an influx of new dogs from other areas,” says Kelly O’Meara, Humane Society International’s Vice President of Companion Animals.

“The key to addressing conflicts in an effective and sustainable way is to gradually reduce the dog population through humane dog management programmes, involving the spaying and neutering of dogs to curb the overall numbers, and then mass vaccination to ensure the population is healthy and disease free.”

Conservationists say that although several studies have demonstrated the problem exists, there has been no comprehensive proposal looking at solutions.

Unless that happens – and with populations of humans and dogs on the rise – wildlife will likely continue to be threatened.


Read more about sharing.

Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats


In the US, there are more than 163 million dogs and cats that consume, as a significant portion of their diet, animal products and therefore potentially constitute a considerable dietary footprint. Here, the energy and animal-derived product consumption of these pets in the US is evaluated for the first time, as are the environmental impacts from the animal products fed to them, including feces production. In the US, dogs and cats consume about 19% ± 2% of the amount of dietary energy that humans do (203 ± 15 PJ yr-1 vs. 1051 ± 9 PJ yr-1) and 33% ± 9% of the animal-derived energy (67 ± 17 PJ yr-1 vs. 206 ± 2 PJ yr-1). They produce about 30% ± 13%, by mass, as much feces as Americans (5.1 ± Tg yr-1 vs. 17.2 Tg yr-1), and through their diet, constitute about 25–30% of the environmental impacts from animal production in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides. Dog and cat animal product consumption is responsible for release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs). Americans are the largest pet owners in the world, but the tradition of pet ownership in the US has considerable costs. As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices. Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts.



dog v wild

d v w

c1894 Hunting Bird Dog Chasing Rabbit

Endeavors to restore local forests have opened my eyes to Earth’s ultimatum of the day — domesticate or rewild– as shown in this case, the domesticated dog vs wildlife. Urban natural spaces are mostly perceived as places for dogs to be wild and free at best, as dog dump ground at worst. Focusing on true wild life, I see habitat harm in action. Their paws compacting native seedlings and disturbing soil, creating a condition favoring invasive seeds to set and sprout. Their noises, scents, and even just their presence alarming mammals and flushing brush birds, decreasing fauna diversity. Their feces and urine tainting the land and creeks, in the end polluting ocean habitation. Finally, it was their mauling of a forest’s sole remaining fox (see Animal Control Officer’s Report), and reading Lee Hall’s On Their Own Terms: Animal Liberation for the 21st Century, that motivates this essay.

May this serve as a calling to those who love and tend to dogs to reflect on their relationship and refocus concern to nature. Why them? Because they are the ones who tune in with empathy, who do not hesitate when compassion demands action, who sacrifice with eternal loyalty. Those are the qualities needed if a diversity of animal lives is to remain viable, even for entire species to exist. But an expanded mindset does not come easy. There is always a quandary. A barrier to overcome. A predicament. A hard choice that, in this case, is no less than life or death. Here a change in mind begins with a confrontation on the domesticated dog that challenges the core of what it means to be human. To domesticate is to dominate is to master another. No matter how compassionately it’s done, in the end perpetual states of this kind of control have regrettable outcomes. That outcome is approaching.

Accompanying the bloating abundance of domesticated dogs is the burst of businesses heaping ample attention onto them. Lesser but parallel attention is paid to waning wildlife. Where is discussion of domesticated dogs’ effect on wildlife decline? Does this candid conversation topic ring too taboo for mainstream discourse? There are professional studies in professional journals on specific species impacted by dogs, but the degree of overall impact remains unstudied and unknown. Still, a literature review confirms commonsense: human bred pet and feral dogs are degrading and displacing wildlife habitats, including that of their own free relations. (see resources)

While Earth’s ill-health has distended into conventional thought, contributing causes and consequences continue to broaden in scope. Most recent concern is launching into how human food procurement impacts Earth’s ecosystems, particularly animal agriculture. With a breech across the mainstream taboo of criticizing the custom of pets, a study revealed up to 30% of farmed animal ‘products’ are fed to pets in the US. (see Environmental Impact of Food Consumption by Dogs and Cats) While animal agriculture is targeted as the prime culprit, agriculture itself is beginning to come under scrutiny. Hall reminds fellow vegans that all farming displaces wildlife habitats. (p. 65)

The ‘dog in the family’ lifeway leading to ‘dog in the park’ conflicts is the ‘canary in the mine’. Domesticating animals serves as a litmus test on our aptitude to end our reign of destruction if not even to save ourselves. If we cannot reverse our ‘dominion over wild’ mindset, we are doomed to dominate bioregions across Earth to death.


Domesticated Human Mindset on its Domesticated Dog

(W)olves, who attend to the demands of their own communities, not ours, are vilified for existing anywhere near us. While our domesticated dogs number in the hundreds of millions, their ancestral community is deemed a collective threat to subdue. We have gradually exterminated animals who scare us, and produced other animals who will accommodate our desires. And we end up calling it love. Domestication has become so customary that few people question it and most extol it… Increasingly, animals who aren’t amenable to playing a role within our society are hooked off the world stage. (Hall, pp 77–8)

One characteristic that moves humans to keep animals in existence is appealing physical features or actions that humans cherish as ‘cute’. When some humans feel enchanted by a nonhuman animal, they want to bring her as close as possible, to touch her, to play with her, to feed her. Eliciting an animal to respond to cues is justified with a rationale that interaction with nonhuman animals is a human right, a pure ideal. That ideal is fixed to our dominant position. Free living animals by and large interact and share affection with their own kind. Why have we sculpted unnatural inter-species relationships? In Dominance & Affection: The Making of Pets, Yi_Fu Tuan asserts “…dominance may be combined with affection, and what is produced is the pet.” (p. 2). Are we aware of our dominance when we do something like separate an 8-week-old puppy from its mother and siblings? Hall challenges us to “recognize dominion in all of its forms: an imposed vulnerability to human control, no matter how adorable the dependent animal might appear to us.” (p. 8)

Our calling to connect with animals reflects our deep calling to return to nature. But like dogs, we no longer know our place in the wild, or how to live mutualistically with wildlife. The pet dog normative is at its very essence a grieving of and striving to restore lost connections. Through domestication our kind has stripped from both ourselves and dogs the wild connections for which we both intrinsically yearn. Misdirected attempts to quench our longing only remove wildness from us further. In our very existence as civilized beings, we and our domesticated animal extensions are bound to degrade and displace our longed-for nature home, making our return from civilization to nature imperative.

When confronted with environmental harm of their pet, dog activists’ denial runs swift and steep. Some reactive minds extend concern for wildlife to concern for domesticated dogs, somehow including pets in the sphere of wildlife. This confusion hints at humans’ innate focus on animals, while disremembering how we have bio-engineered the wild out of some of them. When they concede that their dogs do not live free in the wild, and probably couldn’t, another flawed justification inevitably springs forth as reason their dogs are entitled to priority over free living animals.

The dog activist mind positions dogs as victims while ignoring dogs’ harms to wild animals and wild habitat. They express their motives as altruistic for the dogs; they are humbly taking on responsibility to ‘rescue’ pets from abuse and certain death. Their motives are stated as altruistic for humans; there is scientific evidence that dogs make humans happy. Reminders of the plight of wildlife, species extinctions and such, does not relent their attention, time, energy, money, or undying devotion to their dogs — their choice is made. And when the harm is direct, in front of their eyes dogs disturbing birds or squirrels, their poor dogs are deserving of the harm they do. Dogs are ‘part of the family’. To judge dogs is to threaten a family member. Besides, they spay and neuter to help bring down dog overpopulation. It’s the breeders who are to blame. They are trying to fix the problem the breeders create.

In civilization and particularly under capitalism, ‘rescuing’ pets is self-defeating merely by contributing to the pet hype. Partaking in pet customs inevitably feeds the frenzy. The more dollars humans spend on dogs (currently billions/year) the greater the quantity needing ‘rescue’ will inevitably be. It’s market principles, high demand will draw up supply. And the market too is manipulating demand through advertising and such, spiraling into a dizzying fury of pets and profits. Those who conform with the pet normative are colluding with packaging dogs as products. Ah, but they can’t help that, so says the dog activist mind.

Just as they can’t change that early humans bred the wild out of wolves. It was a symbiotic relationship and remains so today, they claim. Wolves and humans grew close through mutual aid. They helped us with the hunt, provided us protection, and we fed and protected them in return. While it may have been a symbiotic relationship at one point, humans have bred select canines to the point where they are now parasitic, and not by their choice. By hyper-molding dogs to suit our pleasures, our species has genetically altered dogs into forms that have lost ability to thrive independently. Airs of mutuality between today’s dominant humans and their reliant dogs are incredulous. If there was at some point human-canine agreement to aid each other in lives of our own pursuits, it vanished long ago.

In reply to the damage dogs do to wildlife habitats, there is also the ‘they do it too’ defense. Wild animals disturb soils and water and other animals too, wild animals are no different. But they are different. Over time wild species co-adapt and form thriving, biodiverse, resilient communities. An ecosystem is flush in a symbiosis that humans have domesticated out of dogs. If a free-living species grows too prolific, adjustments and adaptations are made to maintain homeostasis. Wildlife control their own and others’ population rates. On the other hand, a hallmark of domestication, including human domesticated dogs, is over-breeding, invasion and colonization. The more dogs encroach into wild communities, the less healthy and resilient those communities become.

Humans have bred dogs for a life outside nature, like them. As much as humans adore and try to encourage dogs’ connection with nature, they are now too far removed. The feat of the modern human-dog relationship has external impacts that contradict and impede altruistic motives. “Domestication, captivity, or control are often taken for symbiosis. But these actions don’t bring us into harmony with the rest of the living world.” (Hall, p. 116) In their current form, the core role dogs have in nature is destroyer. Destroyer of the place in which descendants of their living genetic ancestors are struggling to live. How did we end up here?

History of the Human-Dog Association

The dream that ferocious animals, on the approach of man, would kneel in docility and thus be a fit companion in a perfect world may be among the most vainglorious of human aspirations. (Tuan, p. 85) Continue reading

See Spot Terrify the Seabirds


Dogs playing on the beach may seem harmless, but their presence can be an unnecessary source of stress for birds. Photo by RooM the Agency/Alamy Stock Photo


See Spot Terrify the Seabirds

Dog owners knowingly flout leash laws, even at birds’ expense.

Authored by  by Larry Pynn

It may seem obvious that an off-leash dog tearing down the beach, barking, jumping, and chasing almost anything that moves can cause unnecessary stress to birds. But just try telling that to the dog’s owner.

“My dad takes his dog for a walk and lets it run loose off leash,” laments David Bradley, the British Columbia program manager for Bird Studies Canada. “Why does he do it? He says, ‘Well, I only have one dog and it won’t cause that much of an impact.’

“That’s not the right attitude,” Bradley says. “Think about the big picture.”

According to a recent survey, the belief that dogs are innocuous is pervasive. The Bird Studies Canada team interviewed 245 beachgoers at three popular sites along the lower Fraser River outside Vancouver, British Columbia, where signs are posted and bylaws are in place banning dogs or requiring them to be on leash.

The study revealed that nine out of 10 dog owners are aware that the shoreline sites are important to shorebirds and waterfowl. But 40 percent of those interviewed also said that they always bring their dog to the beach, and 15 percent always allow their pets to run off leash—the latter being a conservative figure, since not all dog owners admit to the behavior, Bradley says.

And, just like Bradley’s dad, 42 percent of dog owners say their dog is not a problem. “People often have this cognitive dissonance,” Bradley says. “They don’t look internally at their own actions. They tend to externalize the issue.”

In the lower Fraser River estuary, birds face a slew of negative human impacts—an ever-increasing urban population, industrial development, habitat changes due to climate change and invasive species, and even the presence of birdwatchers and photographers. In some places along the shoreline, waterfowl are open to hunting.

In comparison, an off-leash dog may seem like a minor problem. But as research shows, harassment by dogs repeatedly interrupts birds’ ability to feed and rest, putting them at greater risk during long-distance migrations. Dog owners can underestimate the problems their pooches pose, but they can also change for the better—with a little arm-twisting.

Take, for instance, Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, where you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog on the beach in March and April, when 2,000 brant geese descend on the area to gorge on the annual herring spawn.

Ever since he was hired in 2005, bylaw enforcement officer Don Marshall has tenaciously enforced bylaws banning dogs on the beaches in March and April.

In the Arctic, the goose’s summer breeding grounds, its main predator is the fox. To the birds, dogs look just the same, Marshall says. If dogs are allowed off leash near the beach, the birds won’t get enough to eat, potentially jeopardizing a successful migration.

Marshall says his goal is to teach, not to hand out tickets, and the program seems to be working.

“When I first started, there were people everywhere,” Marshall says. “Now you can go when the tide is out and see nobody on the beach with a dog.”

In Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, researchers have shown that birds are disturbed five times more when people are accompanied by dogs than when they’re hiking alone. Due to on-site prevention and education by park staff, compliance with leash regulations increased from 44 percent in 2011 to 70 percent in 2017.

Bradley is hopeful that by sharing the results of his research, municipalities and the province will ramp up education and enforcement on critical beaches.

Wherever dog-bird conflicts exist, he says, the answer is almost certainly an easy one. “Keeping a dog on leash is a very simple thing to do. It’s within our capacity. The solution lies in the hands of humans.”

SILENCE, PLEASE (a poem about American wilderness by Franz Camenzind)

Please- leave your cell phone behind
Lose your ear-buds too
Lower your voice –­ Please
Clear your mind of rushing thoughts

Be still
This is a beautiful place
Silence is a gift received

The silence I seek is not the absence of sound
The silence I seek is the sound of the land –
Air moving, quacking leaves
Streams flowing, splashing the sky

Grasshoppers buzzing away on wings
A red squirrel chattering
Gray jays calling
This is the silence I treasure

The silence of the living land
With no barriers between me and earth’s songs
Between today and creation
The primeval sounds found here still

On a wild lands trail
My backpack creaking
Footfalls on a hardened earth
The scuffing of dirt

My own breathing
Heartbeats heard inside
Pack straps rubbing
The clicking of my walking stick

Sounds unknown by far too many

We avert our eyes from the unsightly
But cannot avert
Our ears from the world’s new noise
So persistent is the clamor

We have accepted
Being numbed to the noise
Accepting the unnatural
Removed from the wild

I seek the wild places
Where the land still speaks
By mechanized sound

We treasure tranquility
The feeling born
From the silence of the land
Becoming every more rare

Silence, Please
For wilderness harbors the sounds of our soul
Freely given
We need only visit – and listen

Wheels in the wilderness? Bill to allow bikes divides outdoor lovers

Bill splits cyclists, conservationists over bikes in BWCA, other wild areas.

By Pam Louwagie Star Tribune

December 17, 2017 —


Brian Peterson, Star TribuneThe BWCA is unlikely to see a lot of debate about bicycles in the wilderness. “Mountain bikes generally don’t float,” said one bike enthusiast.

When the ice is solid and snow is light, it would be fun to ride a fat-tire bicycle across the quiet lakes of the Boundary Waters, Steve Piragis said recently as he pedaled atop Burntside Lake just outside of Ely, the tracks of deer, otter and fox scattered in the snow around him: “It would be tempting.”

But as a man who regularly ventures into the non-mechanized solitude of the federal wilderness and earns his livelihood as an outfitter, Piragis simply can’t see bicycles and the Boundary Waters mixing.

“We send people in for a true wilderness experience, which is as pure of an experience as you can get,” he said. “Bicycles would just be another infringement.”

A bill in Congress would clear a path to allow bicycles and some other nonmotorized wheeled vehicles into wilderness areas around the country. It is churning up unusual tension among cyclists and conservationists in Minnesota — two groups often aligned — as well as sparking internal conflict for people who consider themselves part of both.

The measure aims to amend the Wilderness Act so federal land managers could allow nonmotorized bicycles, adaptive cycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, game carts and some other wheeled equipment into designated federal wilderness areas. It passed through the House Committee on Natural Resources last week, though it has both supporters and detractors in the nation’s biking community.

“We’re just delighted beyond all description,” said Ted Stroll, who in 2015 co-founded the Sustainable Trails Coalition, a Colorado group dedicated to changing the rules for some wilderness areas. “We were tired of the … universal federal agency bans on human-powered travel in the wilderness unless you’re walking or paddling a canoe.”

The long-established International Mountain Bicycling Association, however, weighed in against any changes:

“Mountain bikers and the recreation community depend on public lands and thoughtful conservation,” Executive Director Dave Wiens said in a statement. “Public lands are being threatened at an unprecedented level right now, and it’s imperative that public land users come together to protect these cherished places.”

‘Bikes … don’t float’ Continue reading

Appendix B: Dogs and Wildlife



  1. Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department ………………………………. 1
  2. National Wildlife Refuges …………………………………………………………………….. 1
  3. National Parks ……………………………………………………………………………………….. 3
  4. Studies of Dogs and Wildlife …………………………………………………….. 7



Public Conduct Rules for WDFW Lands

Pets — hunters can use hunting dogs under their control, but cannot let them or other pets roam unattended; from April through July, all dogs and other pets must be leashed on WDFW lands to protect nesting wildlife.

WDFW Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area   (21,000 acres) Reardan Audubon Lake Unit — Keep dogs and other pets on leash or leave in vehicle or at home.

WDFW Scatter Creek Wildlife Area   The 492-acre Scatter Creek unit is located 20 miles south of Olympia. Dogs must be on leash from April 1 to July 31.



Nisqually Wildlife Refuge

3) Are dogs allowed on the Refuge? We do not allow dogs anywhere on the Refuge (this includes the whole Refuge – entrance road, parking lot, trails, etc.). National wildlife refuges are the only set of federal lands set aside expressly for fish and wildlife above all other purposes. The prohibition of pets including dogs is to reduce disturbance to wildlife and habitat. There are studies that have been done that show that wildlife in the vicinity of trails, even where dogs are leashed, are negatively affected, causing lower wildlife abundance along the trail. It may be because wildlife instinctively look at dogs as predators, whether they are leashed or not. Continue reading

New plans for young Capehart Forest, where there once was asphalt

Originally published November 6, 2016

Volunteer stewards at Discovery Park have plans for two new trails at the Capehart Forest to provide protection for nesting birds, and access for the public. They also want to keep up a protective fence one more year — and are raising money to pay for it.

Forest-restoration steward David Hutchinson, left, and landscape designer Paul Broadhurst note key features of Capehart Forest in Discovery Park last week. (Logan Riely/The Seattle Times)

Forest-restoration steward David Hutchinson, left, and landscape designer Paul Broadhurst note key features of Capehart Forest in Discovery Park last week. The temporary fencing protecting the forest will be taken down sooner than desired if more funding can’t be found. (Logan Riely/The Seattle Times)

By Lynda V. Mapes Seattle Times environment reporter

A quiet parade of stakes in the ground is the first sign of a big dream taking root here: two new trails to provide public access through the city’s newest forest.

Just five years ago, this place was a rubble of concrete and asphalt, all that remained from a former military housing development. Today it’s a haven for nature at Discovery Park, Seattle’s largest.

David Hutchinson, a longtime volunteer steward at the forest, said the number of bird species there has soared from five in 2012, to 27 this year, including Cooper’s hawks, warbling vireo, Bewick’s wren, spotted towhee and even Washington’s state bird, the American goldfinch.

Birds, frogs and other creatures that all hide, nest and slink through the 30-acre Capehart Forest at Discovery Park would still be protected for one more year behind a temporary fence, under a plan hatched by volunteer stewards,

Meanwhile, two new trails would be built to guide foot traffic through the landscape once the fences come down for good in January 2018.

Today the forest includes a range of new landscapes: conifer groves, dense stands of willow, a grove of big leaf maple, and even a young Garry oak prairie, one of the rarest habitats in the Puget Sound region.

The idea behind keeping the fence up a bit longer, and establishing the trails is to guide foot traffic and discourage off-leash dogs that endanger the fledgling forest, Hutchinson said.

“Look at that, one step and it’s gone,” Hutchinson said on a recent walk through the planned new trail system. He pointed with caution to a Garry oak that had self-seeded and grown to an ankle high sprout.

Ground-nesting birds, such as savanna sparrows, also are vulnerable to disturbance, he noted.

Letting a spiderweb of so-called social trails get established instead — as is the case today in Discovery Park’s South Meadow — would fragment the habitat created at Capehart with years of work, much of it by volunteers, planting and watering and weeding the new forest.

It would also undermine a more than $11 million investment by the city to acquire the property, tear out old buildings and asphalt, as well as plant native trees, shrubs and plants.

City parks officials support the stewardship plan for Capehart, said Andy Sheffer, development and construction manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation. “We are all on board, we want to support the new synergy that is going on.

“Long term, if this is a healthier restoration site, it will require less operation and management for the long term; it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Seattle Parks will provide the woody debris for the edges of the trails, and technical assistance, he added

But proponents of the plan will have to raise their own money — $5,000 for the fence, for one more year. And about $150,000 for the trails, Hutchinson estimated.

Sheffer said the plan makes sense.

Backers of the plan are seeking donations now, most urgently to keep the temporary fence up. City funds for the fence expire at the end of the year.

Paul Broadhurst, a Seattle landscape designer who has donated a design for one of the two trails to the cause, said he is excited about what Capehart Forest is becoming. “This is a place of quiet refuge, a kind of marvelous back eddy for nature,” he said on a recent walk through the property.

A cleansing wind blew through the young trees as Broadhurst gestured to views across a meadow to Puget Sound beyond.

“There’s nothing else like it.”

Donations may be made to the Seattle Parks Foundation, choosing Capehart Forest in the drop-down menu on the Designation tab.

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2515 or


14 Objections to additional OLA’s in Seattle

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, 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 B

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.” 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

Appendix C

Appendix A

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,


Jane Koler