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Off-leash dogs are all too common in our parks

Letter-to-the-Editor-698x408

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Editor, Index-Tribune:

My bone fides first: dachshunds (2), mutt, English pointer, vizsla, corgies (3), great Pyrenees (2 plus litter of 10). These have been the dogs in my long life. And they have brought great joy, comfort and delight.

I also have a love of horses and for 20 years have been a volunteer patrol rider for State Parks, County Regional Parks and the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). I am a neighbor of the Jack London State Park and even our corgis escaped a few times to wander with visitors to the park headquarters, where they were kenneled until I could pick them up.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s it was common to see does with fawns drinking at Lake Suttonfield early on a hot summer evening. I haven’t seen deer around the lake for many years. Our patrol riders have found it frustrating to file ride report-after-report listing dozens of dogs off leash and swimming in the reservoir, which holds drinking water for the clients at SDC and is the destination of many migrating shore and water birds. They no longer nest on its shores.

Every entrance to SDC is posted with the message that dog owners must keep their dogs on leash, but there is no room in the SDC budget to enforce the ban of dogs off leash. If a person is cited, the officer must be prepared to defend the ticket in court. The personnel at the center are busy with more essential services.

Even more disturbing to me is the knowledge that the great majority of people who disregard the law are my neighbors. It is disheartening. A few are extremely discourteous, many secure their dogs as I ride by, but most just ignore (politely?) my polite admonishments.

On a recent weekend ride, I encountered people with seven dogs around the lake – all seven were off leash.

Given the experience of patrol riders at SDC, but also at Annadel, Jack London and other parks where people and wildlife co-exist, I do not think dogs should be allowed in the Montini Preserve.

Mickey Cooke

Glen Ellen