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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.

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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