Dog owners want more play space for pets

City holds public meeting to hear residents' concerns, suggestions for dog recreation

Palo Alto's dog owners Tuesday called on the city to change its leash law so their pets could run off-leash in parks and schools at certain hours of the day when few people were around.

The discussion at Jordan Middle School -- involving about 90 people, only five of whom did not own a dog -- marked the city's first formal step in a process to address recreational opportunities for dog-owners and dogs.

The city's leash law, instituted in 1955, requires every dog to be leashed at all times when outside a home or private yard.

"I have no place where I can let my dog run without a leash, and I don't understand that," said Palo Alto resident Sarah Arnold. "It seems to me there's a limited amount of space, and a lot of people with dogs."

Dog owners at the meeting almost unanimously agreed they would like specific times and places where dogs could run off-leash and owners could socialize.

"Community is hard enough to come by in this day and age, so when we have these communities that have formed around dogs and exercising dogs, that's something the city should see as a real positive value," dog owner Lucinda Abbott said.

Dog owners said that the city's three dog runs in Mitchell Park, Greer Park and Hoover Park are not within walking distance for many neighborhoods and are cramped and pale in comparison to dog facilities in neighboring cities such as Mountain View.

"I'm concerned that my dog is never able to run freely," resident Jackie Raine said. "Dogs need that freedom, they really do. There's just nowhere at all in this city."

However, Wendy Miller, who works at the Addison Kids Club, said she was against sharing her compound with dogs while children were around.

She has called the police on several occasions because some dog owners refused to leash their pets and denied there was a leash law.

Miller has also seen unleashed dogs running near buildings and relieving themselves near areas where children play, she said.

"Sharing space is not working," Miller said. "My concern is for my kids. There's a huge liability if anything happens to those kids."

After listening to several questions and opinions from residents, city staff divided the crowd into small groups to discuss and share their top concerns and suggestions for improving recreational opportunities for dogs.

"We want people to go out and build a strong, healthy community around walking their dogs," said Rob De Geus, division manager of recreation and golf for the city. "But we also have to balance that so it doesn't affect the recreation of others."

Resident Neil Dorward said there were dogs running without leashes at night in schools such as Jordan, and that resulted in dog stool left on the ground.

"One of the problems is you can't possibly pick up everything after your dog," Dorward said. He suggested having some parks with fenced areas for dogs and prohibiting them on school grounds.

Another popular suggestion was to increase the size of existing dog runs and install a divider between areas for large dogs and smaller dogs. Dog aggression was a concern, owners said.

"When so many dogs are close together, they get aggressive. Often the large dogs overpower the small dogs," Jackie Raine said. She owns a small Italian greyhound. "I can't take her to the dog run because basically, she's too frightened."

Resident Keith Gilbert suggested an "informal membership" at neighborhood parks to obtain some accountability and responsibility from dog owners. This would help in monitoring dogs that are off-leash, he said.

Other suggestions included opening Foothills Park to dogs on weekends -- at present, the park only allows dogs weekdays.

"We are not trying to get rid of a leash law," dog owner Wendy Hopfenberg said. "I think we all agree dogs need to be on leashes out in public on the streets."

City staff will put together the residents' comments in a staff report and present it to the Parks and Recreation Commission.

"We understand that most of the people tonight are dog owners, and so we'll be hearing from people who are not dog owners," commissioner Sunny Dykwel said. "We want to be transparent and this is the first step."

Dog owner Theresa Carey said discussion has dragged on too long without action. "It'll be nice if we could move forward and get something done in the next year or two," she said.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15.


Posted by Sydney, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 11:48 am

I would take the dog owners a lot more seriously if they ever USED the dog runs provided. Every time I visit Hoover park, there are more dogs running free in the baseball outfield than in the dog run. Why did the city even build the dog run?

Posted by Cat a Dog Owner, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I'm sorry, but to suggest that the dogs should get similar rights as soccer teams or baseball teams over field use is silly. Are dog owners willing to get in line and pay what the teams pay to use the fields?

Posted by Theresa Carey, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm

The dog runs at Hoover and Mitchell are so far away from me that I would have to drive to get there. I used to take my old dog (RIP Hershey, 1993-2009) to the Mitchell dog run at lunchtime every so often, but stopped because there were so many unattended dogs there. It appears that some dog walkers take dogs to the Mitchell run, which is the largest in the city, and just leave the dogs there for a while. That led to my dog getting attacked, which isn't my idea of a fun recreation time for either of us.

The group of dog owners at the meeting last night was fairly unanimous in wanting more local space for dog recreation. Space we can walk to, and socialize with our neighbors while our dogs romp. Hoover and Mitchell do not fill that need for me and my neighbors.

I'm a little disappointed that this article does not reflect the general consensus among the people who attended that having more space for dogs to run off-leash is something everybody wants. There is a difference of opinion as to where those off-leash play areas should be, but I believe we can come to some consensus and share city resources in a responsible way.

Posted by Simple Solution, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Why can't they lock up the Jordan gates after extracurriculars are over so dog owners cannot use the field?

When my son practices at Mayfield Sports Complex on Page Mill/El Camino, there are signs stating "NO DOGS" yet there are dogs running around, off leash anyway. Imagine poop on the artificial turf - it never gets washed away.

Are there ordinances about dogs on artificial turf?

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I own a dog. I believe we should keep our leash law. The parks may be mixed use --- but the leash law was instituted in 1955 with mixed use (and public safety) in-mind. In other words, mixed use of parks includes the concept of people visiting the parks with their dogs...on a leash!

The city should try to accommodate the dog owners by providing additional dog run space - where, I don't know. I wouldn't use it because I'm happy to walk my dog on a leash around the neighborhood. But obviously there needs to be some localized dog run space.

I guarantee that there will be a whole lot of NIMBYism once any park is nominated. For example, there have been many mentions of Eleanor Pardee Park as a site...good luck with that. All those people who live across the street and next door to the park already can't stand the weekend "out of towners" that use the park --- think what the reaction will be if a 7 day/week dog run is proposed...barking, etc. Those neighbors have already been successful in preventing a bathroom getting installed at the park. Dog run at Pardee Park? Not a chance...

Bixby would be the best candidate for a very large off-leash area.

As for making the schools leash optional --- no way. And, by the way, the schools are not obligated to follow along. If the schools want to ban dogs altogether (which they already do before, during and after school) - that's their prerogative. And given the number of children and the issues for hygiene on the fields - I'm all for that as well.

Posted by Cat a Dog Owner, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:24 pm

I have an idea, why don't all those who live too far to...hmmm walk their dogs to the dog runs... ban together purchase one of the many homes for sale in the North, raise it and set up a private dog run club.

Posted by Sue, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I believe that, with open minds, we can find solutions that will meet the needs of dog owners who want neighborhood recreational areas and those that seem to object to such areas. For example, Menlo Park has very successfully opened a large mixed-use area for dogs to congregate off leash.(Nealon Park) The space is otherwise used as a baseball field and for other purposes. The dog owners vigorously patrol the area, clean up after their dogs, and enforce the rules which all who use the park agree to obey. Other communities nearby have found good solutions as well and we can learn from their experience. It would be great if Palo Alto could be a leader and find progressive solutions.

Please remember that dog owners account for something like 40% of households in the US. We would like our constituency recognized and our needs addressed just as we support the needs of children to have playgrounds, soccer players to have their fields and so forth.

Posted by Theresa Carey, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:36 pm

@Cat a Dog Owner, what we're striving for is a reasonable solution to this problem. Your suggestion, while amusing, is not very practical.

Nationally, 40% of households own dogs, and I'm sure the percentage is close to that in Palo Alto, if not higher. We all pay taxes and would like to be able to use park space that we are paying for in a way that brings our neighborhoods together.

The group that I meet with a few times a week is responsible and leaves the park cleaner than when we got there. I usually spend the first 5 minutes or so that I'm there picking up trash (water bottles, candy wrappers, smashed bananas and oranges, etc.) left by soccer teams or others who have used the park, then I keep a close eye on my dog for the duration.

Everyone I know is willing to help with maintenance and upkeep in some way.

The problem right now is that the 1955 ordinance is being enforced in ways that were not originally intended when the law was passed. One attendee at the meeting last night said that when she was a kid in Palo Alto, the "dog catchers" were called in when a dog was running in traffic, or had escaped from a yard. They were not called when groups would exercise their dogs at public parks because those dogs were supervised. But now they are.

The dog owners I know are not unaware of potential problems, and are all responsible enough to make sure our dogs are licensed, vaccinated, and trained. Our informal group even has behavior standards, and we have asked people to leave who are not conforming.

If we could come to some kind of consensus and create specific times that it's OK to run dogs off-leash in certain public parks then the widespread problem that some people perceive of "dogs off leash all the time" would be solved.

Posted by New Resident, a resident of University South
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Are you going to pay the taxes for that lot? We purchased a house here not long ago. We pay over $20.000 a year in real estate taxes. I feel my dog has some kind of right to some free space. Where that will be is a good question, but she poops on and off leash, same amount. Personally I ALWAYS clean up, but unfortunately not everyone does. I'm not against paying for a field to use, or having a kind of membership "dog club", and only members can use the field and are responsible for cleaning it up afterwards. They do this in Nealon Park in Menlo Park, which is a dual use field for dogs and sports. It is called "poop patrol" and it works great. The dog owners there also have raised money to pay for a professional poop scooper to clean the fields before sport games.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2009 at 1:04 pm

While we are at it, how about some city provided dog behavior classes, these could be run like any of the other classes in the Enjoy catalog. But, these need to be outside, not inside, so a park venue would have to be considered. Often it is the owners who need a class just as much as the dogs, and some classes could be offered for children 10 years or up who want to be able to look after the family dog that they have played with for years.

Posted by Waste of money, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The logical place to create a nice big dog play area is the undeveloped area of Greer Park which borders West Bayshore. Unfortunately, dog owners did not speak up but the local residents did.

The City Council voted in favor of creating that area of Greer park a picnic area. Why anyone would want to picnic next to Hwy 101 is beyond me, but $1.2 Million is to be spent creating hiking paths, green area and picnic areas.

Posted by Michal Shalon, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I do wish that we could make this a private business, and charge admission/membership, and have someone maintain it that way. However, given the price of land in Palo Alto, added to the problem of having this type of resource within walking distance to many parts of town, it just won't work on a large scale. However, instituting some mixture of private contributions for upkeep of public multi-use properties seems to me the way to go. As one person remarked, soccer teams (my boys are on one) pay for the use of the fields, perhaps we can have a dog club with membership that pays to sign up for field use at certain available times, and police it for cleanup. For those not signed up who show up, we can politely ask for contributions or suggest joining "the club" and make sure rules are obeyed.

Posted by Koa, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I'll continue to walk my dog, both on and off leash, wherever I want. Thanks.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Koa - that's your prerogative...just don't complain if you get a ticket. It's just like speeding in a school know it's wrong and you're putting someone at may never have an accident...but if it happens, you should take the consequences without a word.

Posted by Julie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

You are on the right track. Palo Alto does not generally enforce any of its rules, it just reacts to violations that cause a problem. When that boy was attacked by an off-leash dog at a school a few years ago, the City could simply explain that it was against the rules for the dog to be off leash. If the parents of that boy had sued the City for failure to enforce, it might have been a different story, at least for a while. The bottom line is that dog owners will do whatever they feel like doing.

I personally carry tear gas with me, so that I can squirt it at dogs that come too close to me, when they are off leash. I have used it several times, and it is quite effective.

Posted by Koa, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Thanks CPD for reminding me that it is my prerogative to walk my loving dog the way I see fit when I'm not working in the one life I have been given to enjoy. I've never been ticketed, but it wouldn't bother me. I think it's a little dramatic to compare walking my dog to running down school kids, but point taken.

Julie, I don't know how you have access to tear gas, but possession of that is certainly a much graver offense than walking a dog off the leash.

Posted by Julie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:22 pm


Believe me, tear gas is available. I feel very content to use it against aggressive dogs that approach me off leash. I would rather face that complaint than be in the hospital with serious dog bites.

Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:22 pm

"I'm not against paying for a field to use, or having a kind of membership "dog club", and only members can use the field and are responsible for cleaning it up afterwards."

Limit dogs in dual use areas to those with a valid Palo Alto dog license and use a surcharge on the license fee to pay for someone to control acess to the area to only those with Palo Alto dog licenses.

Posted by Carlos, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm

The only place with available land that would allow the creation of a large dog run is Greer and that would be a waste of money because it's too out of the way for 99 percent of dog owners and they will not take their pets there anyway. I am a dog owner but mixed use of parks and school athletic fields is not an option because dogs can become aggressive for a myriad of reasons and with children present it's a recipe for disaster. I personally walk my dog to Greer about once week because I like to walk and have the time but otherwise I just walk him a few times a day along city streets, since I take the leash law seriously-I do not want to be responsible for a serious injury or worst that my dog might cause to a running child or an adult for that matter. If it were possible to "ban" kids and adults from city parks for a couple of hours in the morning and evening and allow only dog and dog owners to use those parks then, I would support such a plan, but it would never happen. My advise for dog owners who don't want to go out of their way to use the existing, and admittedly very poor dog runs:walk your dogs a lot and take them, when you have the time to remote beaches and other areas outside of P.A where dogs can run free.

Posted by Koa, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Just please don't stop Saturday delivery.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

And indeed if we have a dog park, make it contracted out and private, members only, hire security guards to patrol it 24/7, etc.

No reason to oppose having a workable plan if you can just kill it with 10,000 regulations.

Posted by robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I used to love taking my pitbull to the park and letting her off the leash. She loved to run into little league practices and steal baseballs. The kids loved it, and I picked up the terds so it was no big deal. Now we live in a strange sterile world.

Posted by Doggie Houser, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I personally love dogs, always owned dgs and presently own two large ones, but walking a dog without a leash in a residential area is incredibly irresponsible and frankly criminal. When I see a dog owner walk his/her pet without a leash I make sure that they put the leash on and if they refuse I make sure that that particular walk is terminated.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Please do not make any dog parks for Palo Alto license holders only. I am not a dog owner, but we have done doggysitting for friends and have had family stay with us bringing their dogs. It would be fine if there was a small charge for out of town licenses, but please do not say Palo Alto only as it would cause problems for many like me.

Posted by Not a Dog Lover, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Did anyone read Wendy Miller's comments? She is at Addison every day after school. She sees the dog lover's letting their dogs run and poop and pee wherever they want. Her responsibility are the kids in after school care. Why can't the dogs be banned at the school? Because nobody will be there to enforce it. I'm sorry all you dog lovers want more open space for your pets. Maybe a compromise can be made at Jordan where the field is bigger and there are no play structures. A small enclosed school yard is no place for your dogs and their messes.

Posted by Life-long Palo Altan, a resident of University South
on Nov 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Our dog joined our family seven years ago -- not long after my husband suffered a near fatal illness at age 44. Along with his close call came the lesson that we must not put things off (like getting a puppy) -- we may never get a second chance. What we didn't realize was that our dog would introduce us to another group of folks we might never have connected with, if not for the common bond of dog ownership. We have been members of several different informal dog groups, meeting to allow our dogs to socialize, and inadvertently being socialized ourselves. People with dogs run the gamut of generations, political leanings, occupations, educational levels, and wealth -- and we've met them all. We're courteous to each other, we exchange information with each other, we've shared meals together, we've mourned when a family member has been lost -- whether two-legged or four. In short, we form another piece of the Palo Alto community, at a time when some wonder whether or not community is a thing of the past. We should encourage such connections where ever they may be found; they are the foundation of all that makes Palo Alto a special place to live. I might add that I am a lifelong Palo Altan; low-key dog policy enforcement has always been the norm here. My children have gone to the same schools and played on the same fields that the other posters here have complained of finding dog excrement on. They have never come home with any trace of dog poop on them! Common sense tells us that children are far more at risk of encountering pathogens on the toilet and faucet handles in school bathrooms and simply being in school with children who are sick or have been recently.

Posted by Butch Cassidy, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Contrary to popular belief our little Hoover play group is not well organized. It's just groups of people getting together to socialize and play with our dogs and let our dogs interact with each other. We also spend time in the morning cleaning up the park, ie broken bottles, garbage, beer cans, and drug related items. We don't want kids or our dogs injured while walking them on or off the leash. We feel this is our responsibility for having the benefit of using the parks that are available to us to use. After last night's meeting the Dog catchers must have had a meeting to discuss our meeting because at Hoover park this morning our social hour was interrupted. His ticket book was still hot in his hands while he was running after us. So much for being safe for one day. As always someone complained. Probably Julie, a dog got too close. Long live the hole in the gate gang! We'll figure something out.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2009 at 9:53 pm

keep the poop off school grounds!

now they also want t unleash the dogs?

definitely time to find an alternative for the dog brigade, and I hope powers that be, think of the KIDS!!!!

Posted by Wil, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 7:39 am

First of all, dogs do not NEED to run loose. The owners think that their dogs NEED it. The leash laws came about due to the increase in the urban population along with dogs ownership. This dual increase in humans and dogs lead to an increase in unpleasant dog encounters. Nothing has changed except that both our human and dog populations have grown and there is less open area or parks/schools to "exercise" our dogs. Our population is less responsible and lazy, both parents typically work, kids are off doing activities and there is less time to deal with the dog. The easy solution is to let 'the dog' run free at a school or park so the owner doesn't have to walk with it on leash.

With the increaed pressure on special interest groups on our school grounds, parks and open space, does it make sense restrict a few acres of our urban area to one user group? What about the soccer groups, the little league groups, along with the various other special interest groups that don't have enough of their own space?

We all know that land is a premium in Palo Alto. You knew this before we/you moved in and bought your dog(s). Take responsibility, leash your dog(s) and get outside and get some exercise.

Yes, I am a dog owner with two dogs. I've grown up with dogs all my life and have observed the changes in society with respect to dog ownership.

Posted by Community-minded, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 7:57 am

There are many constituencies in our town and they all have different needs and desires about how to use our limited space. Could we try to really listen to one another? Hear what each side has to say? Then I have faith that we could come to some win-win solutions. This is not a zero-sum game where one side has to win and the other side has to lose. There are absolutely ways for both groups to get what they need and respect other residents. It's so easy to polarize into US and THEM. Why not try to be our best selves and work this through with mutual respect?

Posted by Larry, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2009 at 8:21 am

We have multi-million dollar public facilities for baseball, soccer, tennis, and golf. So why do the users of those facilities get so much while the dog owners get so little? And don't tell me about sports field fees, etc. - there is no way those fees would have ever covered the cost of buying the land and building those facilities! The fees barely cover the cost of upkeep as it is.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 9:05 am

what is wrong with driving to get your dogs to run, all of us drive our kids to do sports

lots of dogs in NYC, you don't see them running around without a leash, not enough places to walk your dog in Palo Alto?

do our schools wake up every morning to dog poop because of lazy dog owners who can't bother to walk their dog?

Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2009 at 9:49 am

I beg all the dog owners to at least clean up after their dogs at Duveneck. The kids at DKC were not allowed to play on the grass after school because of the many "gifts" left by the dogs.

In addition, it would be great if you wait until DKC is closed (6pm) to run your dogs. Thanks.

Posted by doggiedoos, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

"In addition, it would be great if you wait until DKC is closed (6pm) to run your dogs. Thanks."

That's effectively what Wendy was saying. Dogs shouldn't be allowed in schools while kids are still there under formal care.

Posted by To Larry, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:12 am

Your bring up a thoughtful point, one I have wondered about for a long time. There's a big us vs. them mentality re the dog issue, but I kind of feel that with some of the sports fields for kids. If one doesn't have kids, or has kids with no interest in sports, yet tax dollars go to the land used, how can one get their specific needs addressed and met, such as the needs of dog owners?

I don't intend my above comments in a vehment, accusatory or rude way, but I have really pondered the above over the course of years.

Another thing - and this is a little tongue-in-cheek, but I am vehement and a bit rude about this - people need to stop feeding the darn feral cats! I see this ongoingly in Palo Alto, even in the office parks along the edges of the baylands. I wonder if these people are insane! They aren't trapping, altering the animals and getting them vaccinated, either. Nope, they put out food that attracts other critters. I have even had these feral cat folks approach me when my dogs are being walked onleash, asking me to keep them away from the feeding areas. What the heck? I have noticed a seriosu feral cat population explosion areound the creeks and baylands areas when I walk my dogs. It just makes no sense. I know that feral cats don't seem to pose the public safety risk that offleash dogs do, but they sure cause harm in other ways.

All in all, dog owners are tax payers and have a right to try to get their needs met. It makes sense to have teachers and school administrators not wanting their schools used after hours by offleash dogs, as there is more risk there. But the parks in Menlo Park have open dog areas at certain areas and it seems to work out well. PA needs to get with it and allow offleash dogs at certain times at various neighborhood parks. It's really not that hard, by PA sure loves to make it harder than need be!

Posted by runner, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:25 am

I was threatened this morning by two huge dogs who were off leash I was while running along the bike path behind Gunn High School - at the very end of Los Robles. This is a place where owners regularly let their dogs run off leash, yet there is never an animal control officer policing the area. At the same time, a neighbor of mine, an elderly lady with a 5 lb chihuahua also off a leash, was given a warning by the animal control officer in Bol Park. Two points:
1) There is a big disconnect between the rules that City makes and whether the rules get enforced.
2) Common sense should apply to any rules: large dogs can maim and severely injure people - tiny dogs don't.

Posted by Dog Owner, a resident of University South
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:50 am

There seem to be many more residents with dogs, or at least they take their dogs out more often, so are more visible within the last 10 years or so. Downtown Palo Alto, Town and Country, Midtown Shopping Area and California Avenue seem to have accommodated this by allowing dogs to sit outside while their owners dine or drink coffee next to them, as well as have set up random drinking bowls for dogs. It seems to me that responsible dog owners should be able to ask for more adequate space for their dogs without being seen as outsiders with less rights than non-dog owners. The discussion with the Parks and Rec Department was an attempt to have that conversation. There is ample space and activities for children and not all Palo Alto residents have children. This is a process in which the dog owners are just looking for an avenue to help make Palo Alto a better place for everyone. Both dog owners and no-dog owners would benefit with a more rational approach to solving this problem, as everyone is effected. Tolerance and cooperation are necessary on both sides of this issue in order to make some changes.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:52 am


I'm glad you agree that schools should be OFF limits for dog running, or dog poop

and you need fences for the unleashed dog areas in public parks, rules do not work for regular dog owners, who always think their dog is special.

dog owners like to socialize, while they let their dogs run free - imagine if that was done with kids?

if these people want more bang for their tax money, get in line and at least come up with a good idea.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:54 am

How about make some rules such as dogs are allowed at specific times at specific places. If any poop is found (or any other violations), the dog owners lose the right for 2 months. Then, maybe, they will police themselves.

In addition, please make violations at other times a very expensive offense ($1000). Use the money for the violations to build another dog park.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

"There is ample space and activities for children and not all Palo Alto residents have children."

that does not mean everything is convenient

with children you need to drive, drive drive, and drive

to run your dogs you should also drive, drive, and drive

it sounds to me like this is not about a "conversation" it's to whine about the inconvenience of walking your dog or driving to a run.

Posted by Julius Smith, a resident of Monroe Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:04 am

I think it is sad and wrong that all dogs must suffer due to the aggression of a few. (We don't chain all people in public because of a few criminals now and then, do we?) Instead of "leash laws", we need to allow people to exercise common sense with their dogs. When something does go wrong, the punishment should fit the crime, and it should be targeted to the culprit, not everyone in the community.

Posted by Koa, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

Thanks for all the thoughtful ideas and perspectives. After careful review, I've come to the conclusion that, on my hard-earned time off, I will walk my dog how I want and where I want, as long as it is not a nuisance to others. Thanks.

Posted by Overdogged, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

Three words. Woodside Horse Park. Pay to belong and run your dogs there.

No dogs at school grounds. We have two dogs. Our kids are grown, but dog poop at school yards is unacceptable, and I've seen enough of it.
We always pick up the poop. Always. Sometimes we pick up others' poop as well. Carry a flashlight (small one is adequate) at night. If you are physically unable to pick up the poop, then you are at risk even being able to control your dog safely.

Some dogs are leash aggressive (meaning they feel trapped on leash if another dog running loose approaches them). One of ours is like this, due to being "jumped" by other dogs who have broken free of clueless owners to run over and "just be friendly," and have overwhelmed him.

Maybe, like in southern California on the beaches, it can be "dogs only allowed during certain hours." There it is before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. and not at all during the summer months.

The present law works. Don't change it.

Posted by Former resident, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:30 am

Davis, CA has a wonderful off-leash dog park, Toad Hollow. The city should look at that as a model. Yes, you drive there from other parts of Davis but it's worth it.

Posted by Law doesn't work, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:32 am

If the present laws re dogs worked, people wouldn't be upset. But having specific times for offleash dogs at parks - not schools - works in similar cities nearby, so why not Palo Alto?

Posted by Theresa Carey, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:44 am

I don't know any dog owners who think it's OK to take a dog off-leash for a walk on city streets. Apparently there is one in this discussion (Koa) but it would not occur to me to take my dog out without a leash.

He really does like to run around though, and having an enclosed space that keeps him from approaching people who don't want to be around dogs would be a huge benefit.

I like what Menlo Park has done with Nealon Park and would like to see Palo Alto come up with a similar solution.

What the group Tuesday night was trying to promote is a way to encourage Palo Alto to be more of a walking, neighborhood-centric community where different generations can meet and mix, all while enjoying play time with their dogs.

Many of the problems people have brought up in this discussion -- dogs around kids, the occasional baseball theft, etc. -- would be solved by setting aside times for off-leash dog play at our public parks.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:48 am

law doesn't work,

"If the present laws re dogs worked, people wouldn't be upset. But having specific times for offleash dogs at parks - not schools - works in similar cities nearby, so why not Palo Alto?"

do you think specific times will work?

I like the ideas of fines

dogs want more rights, they need more responsibilities, and consequences

people that run their dogs in school playgrounds and leave poop do not give the image that they can abide by even common sense rules

Posted by Shopper, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:50 am

I can't stand that Stanford Shopping Center allows dogs. I have seen dogs peeing waterfalls on the poles and poop smeared on the sidewalks. Stanford is probably too scared to offend their spoiled, overindulged, entitled customers (most who are not from Palo Alto) so will continue to allow dogs. Guess those customers can afford to buy new Pradas when they are ruined by poop.

Posted by Dog owner, a resident of University South
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:51 am

I am with Julie! I too carry - well not tear gas - but pepper spray when I walk my dogs to defend us against dogs off leash! I am not afraid to use it and come close many times!

Palo Alto shouls designate one area of a park (which needs to be fenced in!) to be a dogs park - of wait - they already have a few but no one uses them! hmmmmmm

Posted by cieboy, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:55 am

The city should make accommodations for our dog owners with an offleash park. Dog owners please remember to clean up after your pet especially on the public sidewalks.

Posted by Larry, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2009 at 11:56 am

Perhaps those with dogs should live in places like Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas etc, which have a plethora of room for dogs. A city, even one with large lots, is not a place for a loose dog, especially when owned by people who, for the most part, won't clean up after their animals

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 12:07 pm

"What the group Tuesday night was trying to promote is a way to encourage Palo Alto to be more of a walking, neighborhood-centric community where different generations can meet and mix, all while enjoying play time with their dogs."

I once heard a dog owner running their dog at our local school that after hours, schools are a public park?? I guess, but are people allowed to poop in public parks?

it's all about convenience for the people that use the schools, and schools are basically the dog runs right now,

time to have doggie playdates away from schools, and to get some fines in place,

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Wrote this before....I am disabled and walk with a cane. Have been knocked over 3 times (each a hospital visit) by unleashed dogs. My neighbor's infant was attacked by someone who let their dog run free.

Public safety issues trump your desire to walk the streets with unleashed dogs.

Dog parks work great -- ask my dog. She runs free and safe, poops with clean-up bags nearby, I meet other nice dog owners.

People who insist on freeing their dogs on public selfish can you get?

Posted by Julie, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I made a mistake. I use pepper spray, not tear gas. I have always just called it tear gas, becasue it acts on dogs like tear gas does on humans. It can be purchased online, for example, Web Link .

I carry my canister in my handbag or purse. If an aggressive off leash dog approaches, I get ready. If the dog diverts, when I yell at it, with my hand up, I don't spray it. However, when the dog keeps coming, it gets a full dose to the face. It works great.

This may be a better way to solve the off leash issue, compared to pretending that a rule will be enforced in Palo Alto. A certain equilibirum will occur when dog owners understand that many of us do not think their charging dog is so friendly, as they always believe. If the owners get upset that their dog was sprayed, as has happened to me, I just explain that it is against the rules to run your dog off leash...and I still have the pepper spray so they ususally just go away cursing at me and looking for the closest source of water to wash their dogs eyes.

Posted by Koa, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I see nothing wrong with macing an attacking dog, just the way I see nothing wrong with macing an attacking person. You have the right not to be attacked. My dog does not knock over disabled people, attack housewives, or crap in kids lunch boxes, so I will continue to walk him as I see fit. Thanks.

Posted by PA Dog Lover, a resident of University South
on Nov 19, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Go, Koa!!! It's all about personal responsibility. Geez... we can't legislate everything!

Posted by To Julie, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Tear gas and pepper spray are different from each other and similar, both, as they are both lachrymatory agents. However, they effect people and animals similarly.

Posted by Wil, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

All the examples of off leash areas are great, but you can't compare them with to Palo Alto. Woodside and Davis both are similar except that both Woodside and Davis has ample undeveloped open area without people, houses or existing uses (ie: sport facitities, business/commercial, etc.). Palo Alto does not have the luxury of available open areas. Byxbee Park was suggested, but with several threatened species (burrowing owls and clapper rails), off leash in Byxbee would be a huge mistake. Shared space with sports facilities may work, but what about the drop in casual users to play softball, baseball, and soccer? They'd be excluded unless they're part of a team with a reservation. Dog owners need to take more responsibility for their K9s. I've seen other groups that congregate in parks and schools illegally, yes I was one. The social networking is more than the dogs; people sit and gab, don't pay attention to their dogs while the dogs fight or leave poop because they didn't see it do it's business.

Responsibility! The lazy and unresponsible dog owners are the reason why the balance of the public do not want to give up parks or open area to more dog runs. Control your dogs, CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR ANIMAL, and you can earn the consideration of more dog parks.

Posted by John, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Now we can judge what is important to the people of Palo Alto. This story has drawn comment from many more people than have the stories on zoning, crime, and kid's mental health.

Posted by shocked, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

People are more important than dogs. Kids are more important than pets.


Posted by Bitchin, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 19, 2009 at 8:14 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Bitchin', a resident of Professorville
on Nov 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Koa, you rock. My dog would love to prance on or off leash wherever
it likes with yours.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 9:06 pm

time for some fines, and the CIty to take responsibility for the poop on school grounds, clearly the people that give everyone else a bad name have "free" range already

I'm shocked the schools are so nice about it, this all came up because dog owners want a more convenient place to socialize and let their dogs run free, no less meeting at a school? did everyone run their dogs at Jordan right after?

doggie owners need some better PR, after this, it only smells bad

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 19, 2009 at 9:26 pm

What about using some (or almost all) of these parks for designated Dog Runs..

Hopkins Creekside Park---strip along the creek in North PA. Parking would be a problem. But it's not a huge area and for locals it could be great.

Is there any "ramp" access down to the creek when it's dry? Might not a certain part of that be somehow cordoned off?

Alexander Peers Park looks as it has some space which could be designated.

Jerry Bowden Park....right where Alma meets Oregon.....seems in a way ideal except that the fence would have to be high (no dogs jumping over onto Alma) and no frisbies or tennis balls thrown.....dogs could pee on the statue as an added upside.....

Part of Bol Park? I hear Albumin is a good protein source for dogs. :)

Weisshaar and Werry Parks in College Terrace? Haven't been there in a while. But maybe one of them has some space.

El Palo Alto Park near El Camino and Alma.....dogs could bark at the trains and chase them both north and south.

Again there is a back area of Pardee Park, between the Community Garden and the main grassy area. Lots of trees. Seems ideal, the people are already parking there anyway.

Terman Park has 7.7 acres. Is this an unofficial part of Terman School though? Still that's a lot of acreage.

Ramos Park on East Meadow? Fairly large park.

Rinconada Park is huge and should have an area.

Well let the Tsunami of NIMBY's rush in and say why not for each.

But parks are for public use, not necessarily just for the immediate locals. As about 40 to 50% of the population owns dogs why should not we continue to advocate and lobby for reserved dog areas? Parents drive their kids to parks, people drive to them for other things, why not for the dogs as well?

Posted by Shocked, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I am sadly shocked by how so many people are using this as a free for all way to attack one another - really, really disappointing behavior on the part of adult community members of this city. People must be really unhappy to lash out like this against one another. Back to the issue at hand:


1) The dog owners who came to the meeting on Tuesday are responsible citizens- mothers, fathers, working people, WWII vets, children, community volunteers, coaches, teachers, and hard working people. We are not THEY. We are we, you, us - a community.

2) We are.politely seeking space to have our dogs off leash in a very controlled circumstances in fenced in areas during very specific times.

3) We are in no way, shape or form looking to get rid of the leash law. We all want dogs to be leashed walking down street and in public for the safety of all. Please do not confuse this constituency with the commenters on this list who are saying they will let their dogs off leash whenever they want. As said in #2, we are only asking to meet at very specific times and places that are fenced in and safe for all involved.

4) When people are gathered together socializing when their dogs go off leash in these fenced areas, we are paying attention to the dogs. We actually delight in seeing their personalities and watching them frolic together. MOREOVER, we are all looking out for each other's dogs going poop. Whenever my dog has relieved herself, no less than three other people let me know even though they know I am there watching. We are extremely responsible. We also ensure that only well-trained dogs take part in the off leash play. If there are dogs that are not socialized, we ask them to get better training before coming back for the safety of all.

5) Dogs will poop on or off leash. It's up to the owners to clean up their messes. The people you see gathered in groups are good at self-policing and acting responsibly - many times as mentioned in other postings - picking up parks and school yards and leaving them in better condition than when we came.

Posted by yuk, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2009 at 10:44 pm


sounds like a nice group, but it only takes one to leave a mess behind, and it, "they" do.

the City should give you proper runs in the parks, if that stops the practice of schools as dog runs and no accountability for the poop that even you say needs frequent policing amongst the group,

Posted by bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:43 am

bru is a registered user.

I am sick of people and their dogs. I am fine with responsible pet owners, and I love dogs, but it is just so apparent that more than half of Palo Alto residents just do not have the judgement of a chimpanzee when it comes to some of these things.

I still see dog poop around ... when pet owners are supposed to clean up after their pets.

I see a lot of people walking around dogs that look vicious or intimidating. Things are way past the "Leave It To Beaver" neighborhood stage where people walk their housedogs around the block to get some exercise.

Now I often see weak looking people walking one, two or sometimes three big dogs on leashes that extend to many feet that they could not handle if things got out of control.

I don't like walking or running by these people and their dogs ... hoping that I am not going to be attacked or having to hold my breath or feel nervous because I have no idea what these dogs are like, or their owners. Recall the lady in SF who was killed by her neighbor's dog.

I have seen videos of pit-bull attacks ever since the problem started and some people are going get these dogs and then claim some kind of discrimination towards them if they are restricted in any way differently that someone's toy poodle, and the public is so dimwitted this kind of thinking seems to fly in certain cases.

I wish we could ban all pets from parks and people would just keep their pets at home or not get pets that need a huge area to run in.

Since there are a large number of irresponsible people that seem to want to or do ruin things for everyone else, it does not matter how many good pet owners there are. What we are trading for the right for some people to have their dogs off the leash in public is maybe someone's life or a very bad injury at some point, and an expensive lawsuit against the city.

Why should anyone with a dog feel they have the right to selfishly demand that they, responsible as they might be, and those who are irresponsible, should be able to let their dogs run free - anywhere in public? To me that just does not compute.

I would say if we had decent patrolling and enforcement it might be worth it, but go out to the Baylands an see what a joke any kind of control on dogs is - please!

If dogs were forced to wear some kind of standard muzzles so that they could not bite people even if they got out of control ... then it could be considered. until then at least for me, the possible bite or dog mauling victim gets my support.

Posted by Dog owner, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2009 at 9:22 am

I just want ONE nice place in or around Palo Alto where I can walk my dog off leash from Point A to Point B--somewhere where I can enjoy nature and get some exercise myself, and my dog can run ahead of me. I don't want to sit in the Mitchell Park dog run and get no exercise myself. Please! Just ONE place!

Posted by Lifelong Palo Altan, a resident of University South
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I agree with "Shocked" that it is unfortunate that some of the postings on this forum have been childish, ranging from discourteous to downright rude. And these have emanated from writers on both sides of the discussion. I'm glad that the Parks and Recreation commission chose to hold a meeting where proponents and opponents of creating local spaces for dogs to exercise could meet face-to-face. I doubt that many of the comments left on this forum would be made if the commentator did not have the anonymity of the Internet. It is important to realize that there are many legitimate stakeholders here, and the best solution will be a compromise. We will never get to that compromise if we allow the discussion to devolve into trading smears online.

Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm

In addition to a review of potential PA parks which might have some space designated as enclosed off-leash dog areas...

What about this idea (talking off the top of my keyboard)..

On school grounds. After about 3 or 4PM the janitors could encircle an area with some collapsable fencing of sort. In the very early AM it would be taken down and any neceeary cleanup undertaken. The budget for this would be paid by Parks and Rec to the schools.

Maybe it wouldn't fly for a valid reason, but another idea.

BTW, I also agree that people shouldn't be walking their dogs around off leash.

I understand the schools have areas being used as un-official dog parks now and, while I think some blow the problems out of proportion, that is not an ideal solution either.

Posted by Locke McCorkle, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Aren't we all bored with this game we are playing yet? Some of the jabs are quite clever. I can feel them all—dog lovers and dog haters alike. There is nothing anyone has said that I haven't felt at one time or another. Strongly, too. Just like you all. But I suggest another game. The ancient word for it is Compassion. Compassion—feeling each and everyone's feeling and then reaching for a goal like, "Hmmmmm, can we find a way for this situation to work out beautifully for everyone?" That, my friends, takes bravery and humility but it is much more fun than this back and forth game of proving who is right and who is wrong. Try it. Try it for even a few minutes. Try it and feel how you feel, especially in the gut. It is a creative game because we all need to let go of our rightousness and go for it. It's way beyond being clever and right.

Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2009 at 11:13 am

The real problem is KIDS and of course, their helicopter parents! It seems the people who complain are worried that their kids may step in dog poop. I suggest that we consider limiting the number of people who can move into the city with children -- or those who move in with the intent to have children. This would provide enough $$ to generously pay existing City employees, limit the excess $$ we now have to spend to maintain and supervise soccer fields -- and just think of the $$ saved if we didn't have to pass another parcel tax to rebuild our aging school structures! We could then hire more City employees, with generous pay and retirement benefits to take over the supervision of dogs who just might be allowed off leash.

Clearly, Palo Alto needs to do something about its growing number of children -- not the number of dogs.

Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Nov 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

Concerned Retiree, Maybe you're so old that you forgot that you were a kid once yourself.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2009 at 11:51 am

Lots of garbage (poop) in this community feeling left in Palo Alto.

The last comment to the retiree is really nasty. I have been the victim of some very ugly age-ism in Palo Alto. My only response to the people who make these outrageous remarks is that "if you are lucky, you will GET to grow older too."

Is PA now the town where selfish greed and just plain nastiness reigns?

How about a "thread" on restoring the spirit of the community?

Posted by Michal Shalon, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2009 at 3:37 pm

First, I want to make it clear that I strongly believe having off-leash play-time is ESSENTIAL for a dog's mental health and it benefits the mental health of it's owners as well. Dogs that are allowed to play off leash from an early age become socialized and learn important rules of play and interaction with other dogs and humans that they can't learn while restrained. It's not just exercise, which can be accomplished on a leash. Surprisingly, from playing with each other they learn to have a soft mouth, appropriate behaviors and less aggression. An interesting fact, most dog bites occur on the owner's property with a chained or restrained dog. I know that poop is still an issue, but I believe that a few are ruining it for the many in that case. Please be conscientious folks! As for urine, it is sterile and does not pose any risk of disease. :)

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