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Living in San Carlos January 26, 2012

Is San Carlos Going to the Dogs?

by Chuck Gillooley

It’s Good to be a Dog.

I don’t think there’s an official statistic on this anywhere, but it would probably be a safe bet that the venerable canine is the most common household pet in the City of Good Living — only the house cat may give it a run for its money.  But there’s no doubt that San Carlos residents love their dogs.  Whether they’re cruising downtown on Laurel Street,  or chasing balls at Burton Park, dogs are definitely part of the fabric of San Carlos.

Part of the challenge of owning a dog is finding a suitable place to exercise them.   Dogs love to run, and the bigger the dog is the more room they need to stretch their legs.   But with open space and parks being such a preciously guarded commodity in San Carlos, dog owners didn’t have many options to exercise their dogs off leash within city limits — the only exception being the Heater Dog Park, which is a small slice of land next to Heather School.  All other parks have explicit instructions which mandate that all dogs must remain leashed.

To get around the lack of available space, some dog owners let their dogs run freely at some of the bigger parks in San Carlos.  It has been a pretty common site for years to see a half dozen dogs running blissfully across the Burton Park field in the morning hours.  Same goes with Crestview, Heather, Highlands, and Stadium fields.   And unless there was an incident with the dogs,  enforcement of the leash laws was pretty much non-existent.    The coexistence seemed to be working.

But according to Bonnie Eslinger’s article in the Daily News, all of that changed recently when Sheriff’s deputies began writing citations to owners of off-leash dogs –this came in response to some complaints they received from residents who objected to the frolicking canines at Burton.

The Experiment.

The backlash from dog owners and subsequent meetings with the Park and Rec Department and the Mayor of San Carlos resulted in a temporary agreement to open some of the parks to off-leash dogs during limited hours.   For the month of January, dogs owners have been allowed to officially cut them loose at Burton and Highlands Parks between the hours of 8AM and noon, and then again between 4PM and 8PM.     The extended hours work because the fields aren’t used this time of year for organized sports.

According to the Daily News Article, the Park and Rec Commission was tasked last night to consider possible options to give the dogs extra room to run, one of which is to make the temporary experiment at Burton and Highlands a permanent one.

Etiquette is Key.

Personally, I think off-leash dogs and people can and should coexist at our parks.  But there are conditions related to etiquette and safety that need to be addressed before such an arrangement should become permanent.  The first is cleanliness.    I volunteer during the fall as a referee for San Carlos AYSO, and I can tell you that there isn’t a weekend that goes by where we don’t have to scour the field and remove several canine “land mines” from the field before the field is suitable for use.  And that’s if we’re lucky enough to find them before somebody steps in them.   That simply shouldn’t happen.

The second concern with the dogs themselves.   Some dogs simply shouldn’t be allowed off leash because they’re too aggressive toward other dogs and worst case, people.  I’ve heard numerous stories about dog fights and other aggressive behavior with off-leash dogs that make this a very legitimate concern.

The website San Carlos Dogs is a good resource for people who are interested in finding out more about the off-leash rules, the discussions with the Park and Rec Commission, and great tips on dog etiquette at the park.

But at the end of the day, the parks are for everyone in San Carlos — and there needs to be solution that’s workable for both residents AND dog lovers in San Carlos.    Probably the most favorable solution with dog owners is to make the temporary off-leash hours at Burton and Highlands permanent.  What do you think about that?   Register your vote in the poll at the top of the site.
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Is San Carlos Going to the Dogs?, 4.8 out of 5 based on 6 ratings
Comments 8
  • We have 3 dogs and we keep them on leash ALWAYS. Yes, they should be able to run around, but that is the owner’s responsibility to find a suitable space. They can run in our yard. Whether or not I can trust our dogs off leash, there is always going to be that one dog that will raise the neck hairs on even the best behaved dog. Plus, I cannot trust dog owners to know their dogs 100%, Based on the messes I see whenever I walk our dogs, no dog owner can be trusted to do even the minor maintenance to peacefully coexist with non-dog people. To require a dog to be on leash is just necessary in any city setting.

    We have all seen out-of-the-ordinary behavior in every dog from time to time, and what amount of off-leash exercise is worth having to live with your dog either being the aggressor or the victim of another dog? it can happen even with your dog on leash but at least you have a chance at controlling the situation.

    The rules are there for a reason. It’s not fair for any dog owner to feel their dog’s needs supercede those that either don’t like dogs or just prefer to enjoy public spaces without the added “company”.

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  • I was just driving on Devonshire today and saw a truck with the business name of “doody calls”. Apparently this guy does a thriving business in San Carlos, cleaning animal poop in backyards, litter boxes. Maybe the Highlands dog owners could contribute to a fund and have this business clean the grass field at Highlands on a regular basis? Right now, I wouldn’t take my kids on that field.

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  • We don’t tolerate people defecating on the grass, right? Why should we tolerate dogs defecating in the park? Right now, Highlands Park is filled with dog feces. I’d love to take my grandson kite flying, but everytime we go to Highlands there is a mess. It’s gross!

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  • It’s sad that so much time is spent on making rules and nothing is done in the way of enforcement. There are so many laws on the books, but we still see people texting and not using handsfree while driving, cars not yielding to pedestrians, headlights off when it’s raining, parking infractions, jaywalking, disabled placard violations, etc and they are baltant about it because they know the threat of any consequence is probably not there, I have neighbors who have installed security cameras in front of their homes to catch careless dog owners.

    It’s fine to throw dog owners a bone and create off-leash hours, but who will enforce people picking up after them? Clearly it is not being done by all dog owners and there are no consequences. I’s not really any different when I was a kid, but seriously, when bags and garbage cans are provided and people can’t do the minimum, why are we wasting time even considering granting yet another special favor to people who feel entitled instead of grateful??

    With the budgets being slashed left and right, to not think the whole proposal through is careless. We cannot afford to have a city employee patrolling the parks during these off-leash hours, so it’s a losing proposition.

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  • With almost 39% of the voters in favor of off-leash hours, I’m surprised that none have commented. What are your thoughts??

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  • I for one am very happy that the city has worked out this compromise. I own a dog and live two blocks from Burton Park. It’s a great place for him to get much needed exercise.

    From what I’ve seen, dog owners at Burton Park are very good about cleaning up after their dogs. People clean up after their dogs when off-leash just as they do when on-leash, simply because it is the polite, neighborly thing to do. Now that we have the city’s blessing to allow dogs off leash, any bad apples are effectively self policed. We don’t want to give the city such an easy excuse to revoke the off-leash hours. From the comments, it sound like this is not the case at Highlands, and that is indeed a shame.

    I do wonder how many off-leash hours can be provided in the non-winter months, when the ball fields are in use by organized leagues almost nightly. It would be nice if a schedule of games were posted, so that dog owners could avoid the park at those times.

    From what I’ve seen this month, the off-leash hours are very popular at Burton Park. A lot of people are bringing their dogs out and making use of the park at times that it would normally be pretty much empty.

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  • Every single day a very friendly couple walks their dog past our house without its leash on. After several weeks of seeing this, I pointed out that the dog needs to be on a leash. The woman responded to me by saying “Oh it’s ok.” Actually, no it isn’t. The laws apply to everyone. And, they walk their dog during the same time that families are walking their kids to school. If the dog community wants to have privileges, this comunity also needs to show it can be responsible as a group. My perception is that many dog owners simply believe that because they don’t agree with the rules, they don’t need to follow them.

    As far as Burton Park goes, we live within walking distance of the park and we just don’t go on the fields anymore. There is way too much dog poop to make it fun to run around. The result is the we end up having to clean poop off shoes whenever we go over there — it isn’t worth it.

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  • A neighbor of mine goes to Burton Park and enjoys the off-leash hours. However they were complaining to me about how someone had 2 large dogs when they were there with their 6 month old labradoodle.

    Big dogs and small dogs don’t always play well together and some times small dogs don’t play well together and some times big dogs don’t play well together…are you getting my point?

    I don’t think there is a good solution to this proposal.

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