Wednesday, March 2, 2016

An Open Letter on Dog Leash Policy in Marinwood Park

Dear Marinwood CSD Board Member

As you know, eliminating the "leash optional" area in the Panhandle is extremely unpopular in the community. Two polls on Next Door show that voters want to continue to allow responsible dog owners by a margin of two to one.  Similarly the letters received prior to the voter were strongly in favor of maintaining the Panhandle policy and at the meeting almost all the speakers were in favor of the existing "off leash" area.

Politically speaking, the prohibition will not stand and will be overturned either through CSD action,  a referendum or civil disobedience.   You cannot simply override the will of the clear majority of residents.   

The proponents of establishing the "off leash" ban cite liability and safety as the chief reasons to establishing it.  Although no one denies minor incidents of bad dog behavior,according to Eric Driekosen, confirmed there have been NO DOG INCIDENTS reported in the park causing a report to the Marin Humane Society or legal action at least since 2006.

Marin Humane Society for Animal Control, Captain Cindy Merchado estimates that in 30 years serving as a dog officer, she can only recall about 20 incidents ever in Lucas Valley.  "It just isn't a problem area" she says.  

Cindy and another officer are the only enforcement officers for our 850 square mile county.  " Dog leash laws are not "even on the radar" for enforcement.  We are busy with neglected animals and pet hoarders,"she says.

"We see conflict arise from time to time from dog walkers and people who want to ban off leash activity.   It is always a huge issue.  The only thing that works in my experience is when you establish separate areas as policy.  You have to serve the whole community, not just a portion of the population.  We know that exercise and social play is extremely important for good dog behavior.  As dogs become more confined,  problems arise. We support off leash areas for dogs'

Off leash areas (official and unofficial) are common in jurisdictions throughout Marin. It is rare to hear of people hurt or liability issues. The alarm about liability is not supported by the facts.

We are prepared to overturn the ordinance through a referendum.  

You can save the community from this very public process and the costs of the election by simply overturning the ordinance at the March 8, 2016 Board meeting.

That said, there are ways to improve the panhandle with better signage to advise visitors they may encounter wildlife and off leash dogs.  Let's look for a way to make this compromise work.

I am sure most of us want to put this behind us.  

Will you put the reinstatement of the the leash optional area in Marinwood Park up for vote on the agenda for the March 8, 2016 meeting?

Here are some helpful links:

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