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Dog Off-Leash Pilot Program OK'd

Town to host community forums, get recommendation from Parks Commission on guidelines for off-leash dog recreation program at selected Los Gatos parks.

The Los Gatos Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to direct town staff to proceed with a dog off-leash pilot program at town parks through a public process.

According to Town Manager Greg Larson, two to three community forums will be hosted through April and May to get the public’s input and ideas for such a program as well as get an ultimate recommendation from the town’s Parks Commission.

The public will set guidelines for the pilot-program such as selecting three to four town parks to host unleashed dogs as well as select the amount of limited hours per day dogs will be allowed to be on the loose.

More than two dozen community members came out to Monday's meeting in support of the program with not a single resident speaking in opposition.

According to a staff report, Bachman, Belgatos, La Rinconada and Live Oak Manor parks have been identified as being suitable for hosting the program due to sufficient size and recreational programming demands.

The Council is expected to receive the recommendation from the Parks Commission at either its June 4 or June 18 meeting, Larson said.

The town, with approximately 12,500 households, is said to have around 9,000 dogs living within its limits.

At a Feb. 6 meeting, the Council requested that topic of off-leash dog areas be brought back for discussion by the end of March.

On Feb. 7, the Parks Commission directed town staff to prepare a proposal for an off-leash dog pilot program.

Other By Area cities that are exploring and have similar pilot programs in place are Burlingame, Cupertino, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo and Santa Cruz.

Rob Rennie, chairman of the Parks Commission, has said the issue surfaced because many Los Gatos dog owners love to give their pets free exercise and play time and the task becomes difficult when residents have more than one animal on a leash or they're elderly since they could get tied up together, which becomes dangerous to the pooches and the owners.

The town ranger, too, has been asking residents to keep their dogs leashed, even when they're not being disruptive and just playing, Rennie said.

Patricia Yellich March 20, 2012 at 02:39 PM
It can be a very successful program - if you are selecting certain times I would suggest in the AM after the kids are dropped off at school - 8:30 to 10:30. In the PM perhaps at dusk - 6:00 to 8:00 during daylight savings, 4:00 to 6:00 in winter. I would like to include Shannon park in the large grass areas by parking lot so long as soccer practice isn't in session. I think off leash trails should be introduced - Heinz/Belgatos trail may be a good one b/c very few kids and bikes on trail.
Mark March 20, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I don't really understand the point. Judging by our walks through any of the towns parks, they are all off-leash parks already. I'd guess that more than 90% of the dogs in the park (or the surrounding streets for that matter) are off-leash, and nobody seems to do anything about it. As a dog lover, I understand the rationale behind believing your dog is not a threat to others and is under your control enough so that they won't run into the street, but as a small dog owner, I would really like it if we could feel safe taking our dog to the park on leash and not have strange large dogs running at full speed at our dog, probably wanting to play but how do we know they aren't intending to make our dog into lunch. I'm in favor of setting aside some times/areas for off-leash dogs, but I'd really like better enforcement of on-leash areas/times too for us dog owners who don't feel comfortable having the entire town be an off-leash dog park.
pamela warren March 20, 2012 at 05:00 PM
I think it's important to have posted times and policies that everyone can follow. This way people who are not fans of off-leash can avoid the parks during these periods and enjoy them during on-leash times. Dog owners need to achieve a level of obedience in their training and be responsible about their dogs recall, hand signals, and verbal commnands. I do not see 90% of dogs off-leash in my neighborhood area - or any really. I am lucky enough to have worked with a very good trainer so my dogs always would stop, and come when called or queed. Maybe we can work together with some local experts and develop some protocols for interested pet owners who want to achieve a better level of training and manners.
Mark March 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Walk though Bachman park any time of day. It's very rare that we see a dog on leash in this park. Maybe it's different in the other parks. There are plenty of posted "dogs must be on leash" signs, and owners simply brazenly ignore them, often letting their off leash dogs play right in front of the signs! Rules are only good if they are enforced. It is sad, but we basically don't bring our small dog to the park anymore. Its too stressfull for her and us. We do believe that most of the dog owners have dogs who do not pose safety risks, but we don't know if all of them do so every off-leash dog is a possible threat.
Jim Thrall March 20, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Our parks seem to be great places to pilot this. From the other comments it seems that folks are already doing this in a way that doesn't hurt anyone, though it may frighten owners of small or poorly-behaved dogs. Let's give this a try. If it doesn't work out, then raise the fees on breaking the rule and enforce the heck out of the current ordinance. Just don't leave it the same way - with folks breaking it openly with little to no consequence.
Sandra Vaurs March 20, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I hope that the proposed play area for the dogs will be fenced. Otherwise, I can see the probability that a dog would run into the street or after a passing bicyclist.
Laura Howard March 20, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I hope that an off-leash area can be designated for just young, small, or timid dogs. We have a young dog that wants to socialize, but we don't want her run over by too eager, aggressive, big dogs, lacking manners. Also it would be cool if that town property on Ditto Lane, which is so close to the trail to the dam, could be used for an off-leash area.
kelsey March 20, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Would be nice if the town had a fenced in dog park - ideally with separate areas for small dogs and big dogs. From taking our dog to these parks in neighboring cities, we've found they are safe, convenient and a great way for dogs to socialize. I wish the city would consider more park space - and specifically dog park space - when creating a plan for all these new developments.
Isabella March 20, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I am very pleased to see our local officials address the issue of much needed dog exercise hours in Los Gatos Parks. This issue was raised by Los Gatos dog owners who became frustrated with the status quo and engaged our town staff and leadership in the search for the compromise that will address the needs of Los Gatos residents and their beloved canine companions. I think that staff did a good job of looking into other city’s best practices and creating a comprehensive outline. Leadership members seem determined to encourage active public engagement as well as exchange of information with other communities in order to make an informed judgment. As somebody who spent time living in one of the most dog friendly cities – Vienna, Austria, I would like to include a little tad-bit that shows how civilized countries cherish their citizen’s best friends : Dog Cinema Lets You Take Your Pooch to the Movies By Spooky on December 16th, 2010 Category: Animals, News Vienna’s Admiral Cinema has opened its doors to man’s best friend, through a once-a-month “Doggy Day Promotion” that lets dog owners take their pets with them, to the movies. The 90-year-old Admiral Cinema decided to become more appealing to dog owners, by allowing them to bring their pets inside the cinema. That may seem a little extreme, but it might just pay off, considering many dog lovers don’t go anywhere without their pampered pooches.
Melissa Pugh March 21, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Very cool. As long as the dogs are trained, I am fine with it. Can we restrict it to LG dogs only though? Try to keep out the riff raff, I mean the ruff ruff. ;)
Larry Cargnoni March 21, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Very unfortunate. Just like some people don't like crying babies and ill-behaved kids in restaurants, many of us don't want dogs running around loose in parks. And just like parents of those babies, dog owners will throw up their hands talking about "their rights" and "how they pay taxes". A lot of dog owners responsible for dogs; many are not; they can't even handle their dogs on leashes. Are the dog owners going to walk the park picking up feces once their time is up? Is LG going to add "feces pick up" to the park staff's list of jobs? Do I need to carry pepper spray to ward off unwanted dogs coming my and my kid’s way? A better solution is to establish one park, maybe two, for dog runs - no time limits...that way everyone that don't want dogs poking them and bothering them can stay away...Dog owners don't need to worry about time limits....they can live together with the feces mess that their dogs leave behind... and yes geese and ducks poop too, but their presence in the park is not discretionary. And above all, I can take my fun somewhere else.
S Palmer March 21, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Yay to town council for listening to citizens! I agree with Patricia above regarding hours. Hopefully having posted off-leash hours will make all LG dogs and owners even better citizens.
Mike Calahan March 21, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Pitbulls can be very sweet and gentle animals. You keep throwing it out as though pitbulls will kill every dog they see. While pitbulls have attacked other dogs, guess what, so have other dogs. It is more an indication of crappy pet owner than a commentary on a breed. Do not confuse a poorly trained dog with an animal whose inherent drive is to kill everyone else's dogs. I own a Border Collie, so I am not saying this as a gut reaction to feeling personally attacked, it is just I find a bit of prejudice in your comments, a prejudice that can be harmful to susceptible readers.
Mike Calahan March 21, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Vikki. I appreciate the link to the letter you wrote, it helped me understand where you were coming from. My concerned was about those readers who may already have a prejudice against pitbulls might read the comments as justification for their irrational fear/hatred of that breed.
cathy stannard March 23, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Cathy Stannard I have been going to Bachman Park for the past ten years with my Dog. Everyday he looks forward to his walk to the park to play and run for balls with his friends. I also look forward to watch him play and to socialize with friends I have made at the Park. We are all very responsible people. We pick up after our Dogs and make sure others do the same. We always clean up the litter left by others and have also enhanced the beauty of the park with a bench we purchased, dedicated to a park friend of ours who recently passed. Many times we have parents with children that come by and ask us if their child can pet our dogs and throw them the ball. In fact we have a young Mother expecting her second child who also brings her son and Dog to run and play among our Dogs. I do not ever remember an incident that caused any harm to a Dog or a person in all the years my Dog and I have gone to the park. In fact people seem to know their Dogs personality and some do keep their Dog on a leash if they feel they are not social. As you can gather I am very much in favor of an off leash park.
Mark March 23, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I appreciate your input Cathy, and you do sound like a responsible dog owner. But I think that is really part of the problem. Responsible dog owners seem to legitimately feel like the leash laws don't need to apply to them because they are responsible. All this talk about dog attacks really belies the point about leash laws. They aren't just in place to prevent irresponsible dog owners from letting dangerous dogs loose. They are also based on a social contract that there may be many people out there who wish to use the park who do not want to encounter off-leash dogs, for whatever reason, whether it be a fear of dogs, having a small or injured dog who they do not wish to get trampled on (innocently or not), having kids who don't like dogs, whatever. Following the law is more than just following the law, it is also common courtesy for those people. For us it really hits home because we have a small dog who also gets injured easily. She is perfectly social with other dogs and well behaved, and most of the time other dogs are behaved as well, but larger dogs who are well behaved can still injured her merely by stepping on her. We have unfortunately also been witness to two awful dog attacks (not in Bachman but elsewhere), which all puts on on edge. While we believe that the vast majority of off leash dogs at Bachman are safe and respectful, we have no way of telling the difference between the good ones and bad ones when taking a walk. So we have to avoid the park :(
Mark March 23, 2012 at 03:39 AM
I should also add that I am generally in favor of setting aside some time every day in these parks for off-leash dogs, but only if that means that the on-leash times actually result in on-leash behavior by dog owners at these times. Given the fact that so many responsible dog owners seem to have brazenly ignored the leash laws in Bachman for years, I have serious doubts that their behavior is going to change. As I said earlier, Bachman already is an off-leash dog park at this point, because most dogs are off-leash at any time and to my knowledge there has never been any enforcement of leash laws, not even park rangers asking the owners to leash their dogs.
P. Blake March 23, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Dogs can be spooked by numerous environmental noises as well as erratic movements by children and all people. Even a well trained dog, if spooked or frightened will protect themselves which can be by attacking. Dogs have bitten people, killed other dogs and cats in the best neighborhoods. Dogs should be allowed to run off leash in a fenced designated dog park only!!! By allowing dogs to run in public parks you are putting all of our animals and children at risk. Is it going to take a mauled animal or child before you stop this!!
Kim Daly March 27, 2012 at 05:14 PM
99% of dog owners know nothing about dog behavior and lack of knowledge hurts the 1% of us that are tuned in! People think of their dogs as an accessory and fail to train and recognize behavior issues. I see it every morning when I walk my dog and I shake my head. Why do we reward bad behavior? Makes you wonder if the Town is turning a blind eye to the leash laws, what other laws are they not enforcing?
Joe June 07, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I was born and raised in Los Gatos and fortunately I moved before it was too late. I think all of you should take a moment to look outside of your plastic castle and embrace the idea that it is possible that there are other communities throughout the world that have successfully integrated these wild canines into suburbia and follow some models in place. I live in a town of 30 thousand and we have at least seven dog parks. Each park is fenced, has bring a bag, leave a bag for poop, a small dog area and a large dog area. I have yet to see any dramatic blood curdling attacks on other dogs or on seniors. Might I suggest you do something productive like banning spandex on women over 50 in the parks so that the dogs, including pit bulls, don't mistake some of those hinders for a well over done giant pot roast! "Riff Raff" sounds so Los Gaton. Escape from your shell Los Gatons....there is a whole world out there. Stop evaluating everything to the nth degree and let liabilities go to the irresponsible pet owners. You folks are ruining Los Gatos with all your uppity BS.

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