Friday, October 20, 2006

Let off-leash dog's owners lie

As a park ranger, I am supposed to be unbiased and impartial on each and every law enforcement contact. The problem is, that after I have issued 100+ dog off-leash tickets, you start to think that everyone is a liar.

Here's how a typical dog off leash contact goes:

"Good afternoon, ma'am. My name is Ranger Gord. I see that you don't have your dog on a leash. Were you aware that we have a leash law in the park?"

"Oh, really? I had no idea. I see other people out here with their dog's off-leash, so I thought it was O.K. Besides, my dog is a really good dog."

"You didn't see the three signs that you drove past on the way to the parking lot that say 'Pets must be on a leash'?"

"No. I didn't see any signs."

"I see you found our dog cleanup bags. You didn't notice the sign on the dispenser?"

"No. I guess I didn't."
Is there truly anyone in America that seriously thinks that it is legal to have there dog off leash in a public park? I don't think we even need signs notifying people that they need to keep their dog on a leash. It's just common knowledge and should be common sense.

Here is a typical liar, err...I mean dog owner that is confronted by a park ranger:

Pontifica's Parlor: Got my mojo workinÂ’.
ThereÂ’s almost nothing I hate more than unyielding bureaucratic authority. In any case, last month I got a ticket for not having my dog on a leash in Griffith Park. I was on a favorite hike with Charming Girlfriend and said Lawless Hound, when said CG spied a Park Ranger up ahead in his Ranger Vehicle. Despite my quick sleight-of-hand, despite my wide-eyed protestations of innocence, said Heartless Ranger issued me a citation and told me to show up in court. I guess sending a check is not enough penance; they feel we scofflaws need a talking-to in person.

The last time I ignored such a summons (same dog, same lack of leash, different park) I got slapped with a fine exceeding one thousand dollars (which the Understanding Judge reduced to a mere $300).
She continues her post by pontificating about her ability to evade punishment through the use of her deceitful silver tongue to sweet talk the prosecutor into letting her off. She then details the disingenuous tale she told the prosecutor:
Okay, I lied a little. I said the Ranger was too far away to see whether my dog was leashed, and babbled on about how responsible I am after eleven years of dog-ownership. I might have even said that She Is Always On A Leash In The Park. Which is a big lie. She is Very (er, mostly) Well-Behaved and gets to run free whenever possible, especially at the beach.
Here is another miscreant dog owner that has a run in with the local park ranger:
So today I was at this wildlife reserve thing, and I was walking my dog, which is part rottweiler, part sharpei. Anyways, you're supposed to keep dogs on a leash, but I think it would suck to spend your life on a leash so I let her run around on her own. I mean, my dog's good, if I call her she'll come and she wouldn't run after anybody.

Anyways, this park ranger guy came up to me and said, "Excuse me, I'm gonna have to ask you to keep your dog on a leash. It's just so it doesn't disturb the wildlife." And I said "Oh, sorry, I forgot it. But she's good, she's not gonna chase anything." And right when I said that, my dog took off after a squirrel, caught it, and totally ripped it apart. I felt hella bad, but I kinda started laughing because it was so ironic.

And the ranger got mad and said, "I'm gonna have to write you a ticket." And I said "No speakee english." And I took my dog and started walking back to my car. And the dude was following me so we started running. I got to my car and we left. I think we got away before he got my license plate number. Anyways, I wasn't sure if those park rangers can actually write tickets or if he was just trying to scare me. But it was kinda funny, heheheh.

I'm a little confused. Maybe Ms. BS could explain to me how it's ironic when a park ranger tells you that you need to leash your dog so that it won't disturb the wildlife and then moments later it kills said wildlife. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected occurs, not that which is anticipated. I guess she does need to work on her English.

Here is my advice for you dog owners that insist on letting your dogs run wild through the parks: Go ahead and lie. The prosecutors and judges always enjoy a good laugh when they read the report I write on the back of the ticket.

Here's what Ms. BS' would look like:
At approximately 1420 hours on September 16, 2006 I observed a woman with a large dog without a leash running through Sacred Squirrel Wildlife Preserve. I notified the woman, Brittney Skye, that she needed to leash her dog in order to protect the park's wildlife. Ms. Skye stated to me in plain English without any hint of an accent that she had forgot to bring a leash. As Ms. Skye was insisting that her dog would never harm the wildlife, her dog ran after a squirrel and killed it. Ms. Skye did nothing to stop her dog. In fact she must have thought it was funny because she started to laugh. When I notified Ms. Skye that I was issuing her a citation, she stated with a heavy accent, "No speak English." She then called to her dog and ran to her car as I yelled at her to "Stop!" Ms. Skye drove out of the parking lot at a speed well in excess of the posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour. I pursued her vehicle in my patrol car and was able to stop her approximately 1 mile past the park entrance. I immediately read Ms. Skye her rights and arrested her for Eluding a Police Officer and Obstructing a Police Officer in addition to her dog off-leash infraction. Ms. Skye was booked into the county jail. During the drive to the jail, I had difficulty maintaining my professional demeanor as I experienced several uncontrollable fits of laughter.


Steve Sergeant said...

Your readers might be interested in this excerpt from my interview with Laurel Boyers, the Wilderness Manager for Yosemite National Park:

LAUREL: "...I mean I've had dogs, I know what it's like. I love to let my dog run, and race around, and be a dog. You know, not be on a leash, and even having a dog on a leash, the wildlife biologists believe that, even having a dog on a leash affects wildlife. It leaves a scent behind. It brings in different kinds of -- you know, the potential for different kinds of diseases, whether your animal has that disease or not. And so what we find is, even where people say, 'well my dog is really well behaved, and they never chase wildlife, and they stay right beside me and stuff,' the reality is, that's not really true. I mean, I used to have a well-behaved dog too, and at one point saw my dog eat a marmot on forest service (land). And I thought he was well behaved and came when I called him. You know, there's a wildness in dogs too, that comes out when their out there. And they so act differently then when they're in the city or in your house. And so yeah, maybe they're well behaved, or they stay right with you when you're walking on a city street. But frankly, when a deer runs by, or a fawn's right there, they may or may not behave. And the park's really made a decision that because there are options elsewhere for those same sort of recreational experiences, that we should err on the side of preservation. We whould say that there really truly are too many impacts from dogs. That we're just going to say, 'No.'"
STEVE: "But a horse could bring in disease. A horse spreads waste that people don't like to walk in. Horses don't natually occur here. Why the distinction?"
LAUREL: "Yeah. And that's a common frustration with dog and horse users. And actually, there are many horse users that also have dogs that go through this as well. Horses are generally used as a tool. They're not a companion. They're used as a mode of transportation, that has been historically accepted here. And we use horses here for accomplishing our backcountry work. The people that use horses here for, you could say it's recreation, are using them as their mode of transportation. And the fact that horse may carry other diseases, or have an impact on wildlife, it's a different kind of thing. A dog is a predator, a horse is not a predator. So it's a little different impact on the wildlife. They leave behind different things. There are canine species within the park, that dogs would carry similar diseases to; distemper and things like that. Horses don't carry those same kinds of diseases that threaten our wildlife here..."

Excerpts from this interview appeared in The WildeBeat, edition #50, titled "Pooch Packing."

W.J. Elvin III, Editor & Publisher said...

Well, this is a good argument for the reintroduction of mountain lions to our parks. I like what the lady said to Steve Sergeant, a dog is a predator. Just because he or she is cute and waggly-tailed in your presence doesn't mean there's not a beast in there. I'm envious of those who let their dogs run. My malamute likes people but he's a boss dog and what we call an "up here" mountain dog. He'd eat those "down there" dogs for lunch if I let him run in a park. Keep up the good work Ranger Gord, at least until we get restocked with mountain lions. Drop by anytime at

Anonymous said...

I'm a Georgia State Park ranger and whenever I hear or read a discussion on dogs off leash in parks I can't help but look down at the scar on my left wrist that was left by a 'good dog' off leash or remember the five year old whose lip was split open almost down to his chin from a bite from a 'good dog'.

Resident of Los Feliz said...

I wish there were more rangers patrolling in Griffith Park. I walk my two dogs, on a leash, in the park up the hill at Commonwealth. I've had two occasions where owners of dogs were walking with their dogs off leash and their dogs proceeded to charge and attack me and my dogs.

One owner, in broken English, yelled ahead to me that their dog, a shepard mix was a "good dog and won't hurt me" meanwhile, I had a hard time believing that while the animal was jumping on me and practically knocking me over while I tried to keep my dogs safe. My response to that dog's irresponsible owner, "Use a leash, it's the law!"

The second time, it was a couple with a french bull dog. I saw the dog, walking 25-30 feet ahead of the owner and knew what was about to happen next. I could hear one of the owners laughing at their dog and how alert it had become, then bam! The dog started charging towards us and attacked and started biting my male dog! I was able to pull my dogs away to a safe distance while the owner of the french bull dog ran over to retrieve their dog. Again, "Where's your dog's leash?! You're breaking the law!"

Both owners' reactions to me were as if I were being extreme and harsh! Right. I have two dogs, on leash at all times when I walk and I'm having an extreme reaction.

I can't believe how irresponsible people can be with their pets, not to mention the danger they are putting both themselves AND their pets in!

I wish I could write citations myself. I'd be happy to get rid of the people who walk with their pets off leash and the danger it poses to those of us who are doing the right thing!

Anonymous said...

There are many off leash dog parks through out the country. The most obvious and compelling reason to provide access to public open space for off-leash recreation is because of public demand. Dog owners are a substantial group of park users: a conservative estimate is that there are almost 37,000 dog owners in the city of Santa Barbara and approximately 25,000 dogs. (3) For the county, these figures are considerably higher, with an estimated 108,000 dogs and 156,000 dog owners. The sheer number of dog owners, and their prevalence as users of park space, requires that municipal parks departments respond by meeting the expressed need.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI: The New York City Parks dept. allows dogs off leash in most parks prior to 9:00 am and after 9:00 pm. It works rather nicely. Dog owners who want their dogs to run free can do so, but they have to leash them up by 9:00 or face a citation. Then the rest of the day the park is a safe place for those who would prefer dogs to be under control at all times. Perhaps more cities could adopt that model, as it appears to satisfy most involved parties.

Anonymous said...

If a dog off leash is causing a problem for wildlife or other park goers, then cite them. If the dog is obviously well behaved and not causing any problem whatsoever, then give them a warning. To cite the latter is the behavior that can easily label a a park ranger as an asshole. Take a name and issue a warning. Tell them that if you see them again, you will cite them.

Why do rangers act like dickheads and then wonder why people call them dickheads? Heck, five year old kids climbing trees have caused more damage than my dog ever did!

Some park rangers are cool and well liked, others are assholes. Why do you think that is? Maybe you, Gord, are an asshole.