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Los Gatos Considers Dog Off-Leash Ordinance at Public Parks

Parks Commission to hold meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Parks and Public Works building to consider what to do about dogs and owners' desire for free play, exercise time in public places such as parks.

One of the largest constituencies in Los Gatos is barking up a storm these days over the town's lack of an ordinance related to off-leash activities in local parks.

The town, with approximately 12,500 households, is said to have conservatively 9,000 canine friends residing within its boundaries.

"There are many of us who believe that responsible dog ownership is not only important, but actually good for Los Gatos," said Jonathan Knowles Monday evening speaking before the Los Gatos Town Council about placing the issue on their agenda for discussion.

As project lead for Los Gatos Unleashed, Knowles works with other community volunteers to promote the town's dog-friendly nature, encouraging responsible dog ownership and educating people about the benefits of off-leash activities for dogs.

Knowles is the proud father of a Welsh terrier named Winnie."We're known for being a dog friendly community, most shops and restaurants serve water and goodies for the pooches," he said. However, the town lacks an off-leash ordinance, which leaves many dog owners wondering where and when it's OK for them to let their dogs run loose and have healthy play time.

Knowles said the issue is bubbling up elsewhere. In San Carlos, the city is testing a program that allows dogs to run free in public parks during certain hours. In San Francisco, a federal ranger tasered a man walking his dogs off-leash at Golden Gate National Park.

"It's time that we step up and really think about what we can do for off-leash activities for dogs here in Los Gatos before we start to see any of these kinds of things happening," Knowles said.

The Los Gatos Parks Commission is scheduled to hear the item tonight at 6 p.m. at the Parks and Public Works building, 41 Miles Ave.

Vice Mayor Barbara Spector asked that the issue be placed on the Council's agenda by the end of March.

Rob Rennie, chairman of the Los Gatos Parks Commission, said dogs are currently not allowed off-leach at any of the town's parks.

The town helped pay for the Los Gatos Creek County Dog Park in Campbell, but other than that location, town canine owners have no other spot to take their pooches to let them roam free, Rennie explained.

He said things the commission could consider is whether to allow dogs in certain parts of town such as public parks and hours for off-leash time, among others.

Rennie said the issue has 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.

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

"A lot of the community is coming to say 'Can we fix this ... the fact that we aren't supposed to have dogs off leash,' " said the proud owner of a puppy who's taking obedience and social classes.

"We don't allow that [off-leash activities] easily in this town. If they [dog owners] can't do it in the parks, they sneak over to the schools and do it," he said.

Jonathan Knowles February 07, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Our Mayor and Vice Mayor are to commended for getting this to discussion before the council. We know that off leach activity is critical to proper dog socialization. We know that well socialized dogs make better pets and there are far fewer incidents of any kind when they are properly socialized. Our parks must be treated with shared use policies. There is a reason they are called "public" parks. Really great to see this important issue being addressed.
Jane Darwin February 07, 2012 at 11:01 PM
As an owner of 2 very adorable doggies I have recently realized that not only are there limited areas for off-leash dog parks many state, county and city parks do not allow dogs at all, even on leash, probably for various environmental etc reasons. It seems it is easier to take a dog to an outdoor restaurant than to a park these days. I hope Los Gatos, with its small town common sense, can find a way to create a safe and fun space for responsible dog owners to enjoy their dogs off leash.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz February 07, 2012 at 11:07 PM
My little Pekingese, Kori-Panda Garza-Ortiz can no longer run. She's 16 years old/107 in Human years. She's completely blind, & has a RT. paw dislocation. However still has the "Quality Of Life" so far. But when she was able to run she was all over the place! She could keep up with the Doberman Pitchers in her younger days.....Leash less with her Late Older Sister, Kassydi-Girl Garza-Ortiz! Loved watching them run!
Parthenia M. Hicks February 08, 2012 at 12:06 AM
In theory it's a wonderful idea and certainly in alignment with the love of dogs (and cats) that permeates our town. However, I tend to err on the side of caution. I wouldn't want to see other dogs, people, or cats accidentally harmed because there was no owner close by. If there is a way to make it work, and maintain the safety of the animal(s), and people, I would be all for it.
Mary Lindsay February 08, 2012 at 12:42 AM
I am all for off-leash opportunities, but the safety of all dogs (on and off leash, and their peeps) needs to be safeguarded. Are we talking about a fenced in park? Responsible dog ownership means knowing when you can take your dog off-leash, and when you can't. And if you and your dog are off-leash in public you need to be able to call your dog to you and control it.
Heather Kiuttu February 08, 2012 at 03:00 AM
I have a dog and love dogs. However, when I was a child, a neighbors dog bit me while we played. This is why we have dog parks, to protect the dogs and the people. Dogs don't know when someone is playing or joking around.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) February 09, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Just read that San Carlos has adopted a six-month pilot program that allows dogs off leash between certain hours. I'm getting a couple of emails from dog owners and non-dog owners who want the issue addressed. Kudos to the Parks Commission, Jonathan Knowles and the Council for addressing the issue. We do have many 'perros' in the Town of 'Los Gatos!'
Gwen Reandeau February 12, 2012 at 11:48 PM
I no longer have a dog, but would think that a fenced-in park would be the only viable solution for allowing one's dog to be off-leash and the owner would have to be in control of his dog at all times.
margaret Anderson May 12, 2012 at 05:36 PM
A dog off leash is a potential bite to another dog or human. I love animals but after lunch at Willow St last weekend literally surrounded by dogs outside on the patio yiping, caught in their leashes, it was very distracting for the customers who did not bring their pets. They do not belong in a restaurant atmosphere. For one thing the dogs were uncomfortable.

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