Humane society: Let dogs run free

02/27/2014

The Marin Humane Society sent a frustrated letter earlier this month to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area over the proposed elimination of all but one of the park’s off-leash dog walking sites in the county. Society spokeswoman Carrie Harrington said that although it is important for pets to be under voice command, Marin’s estimated 60,000 dogs deserve an outlet for their energy. The letter called it a shame that “responsible dog guardians will be scrambling to find a proper place to spend off-leash time with their animal companions on our public land.” A policy implemented in 1979 allowed some off-leash walking on the sprawling recreation area, but the National Park Service in 2011 published a draft dog management plan and environmental impact statement that would limit the number of areas where dogs can walk off-leash; a supplemental draft E.I.S. was published after outcry from dog lovers. The park claims the preferred alternative addresses complaints about dogs and the need to protect natural resources, and the plan has been lauded by environmental groups like Marin Audubon Society and the National Parks Conservation Association. But there has also been much opposition to the plan, which has been formally criticized by the Marin County Board of Supervisors and the Muir Beach Community Services District, among other groups. The humane society is likewise troubled by the preferred alternative, which in Marin will reserve only one area in Rodeo Beach for dogs to walk off-leash. Six other areas where the practice is now permitted, including Muir Beach, will either require leashes or ban dogs altogether. The society stated that the elimination of dogs at Muir Beach in particular would be “devastating to the local community and others.” The public comment period closed last week; the park is expected to publish a final E.I.S. and make a decision on the plan next year.