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Leash Laws - Again

Original post made by Dog Owner on Mar 13, 2007

I choose to let my dog run off-leash. This action knowingly violates the leash law, which I do not support. It's OK to violate a law -- but ONLY if I'm willing to accept the consequences. That's civil disobedience, a great American tradition. But I must be willing to pay the fine if I'm caught. I must also be extra-vigilant when my dog is off-leash and actively prevent him from scaring or harming people. I must also be willing to bear cost or punishment if my dog harms someone.

Comments (67)

Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2007 at 4:48 pm

How about cleaning up the poop too. I've found poop on the grass at our son's school countless times. We have a family dog and I would never leave his poop behind for some unwitting person or child to step on. Makes all of us responsible dog owners look bad. I'll never forget the time I spotted a dog pooping at Hoover Park. My kid was still in diapers and I walked over the the dog owner and gave her an extra diaper I had and mentioned her dog just did his business. Her dog was off leash and she was oblivious to his recent activity. In short, if a dog is off leash, owners should be very vigilant about what their dog is doing and additionally respectful if others are uncomfortable with his presence off leash.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2007 at 4:52 pm

If your dog is off leash and approaches another dog - based on instinct the dog on the leash will want to fight. Dog instinct is flight or fight, if they are on a leash, flight is impossible. If you keep your dog away from people and other animals off leash, I have no problem with your "civil disobedience" but please keep your dog away my dog, my yard and my kids. No only do you risk a fine, but a lawsuit if your dog attacks another dog or person.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Duveneck has, I have heard, banned people from bring dogs on camups all together due to people allowing them off-leash and the messes not cleaned up. Thank you for owning up to your deeds. Now, where can we mail the poop?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Are you sure Duveneck school has banned dogs? I saw someone walking there this schoolday morning with a (leashed) dog. I oppose people taking dogs onto school property for the obvious reasons.

Exactly why did the original poster start this thread - seems provocative to me.

Posted by jq public, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2007 at 6:19 pm

My 3 year old daughter was bit by an off leash dog who she ran towards in the sandbox before I could intercede. Thankfully it was not severe, but now she is absolutely terrified when dogs approach her even though we have tried to work with friendly dogs belonging to other aquaintances.

When your dog comes trotting in the direction of my daughter off leash, your assurances that "it's just a friendly dog" will be absolutely meaningless to me screaming for me to pick her up. I will presume that you are another selfish idiot that presumes to be above the law under the cheap guise of civil disobedience.

A true case of moral civil disobedience is practiced openly in the face of authorities. I doubt that's you.

Posted by jq public, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 13, 2007 at 6:22 pm

two things:

1) I meant, "as SHE is screaming for me to pick her up".

2) Pick up your (*&$# POOP!!!!

Posted by Dog Owner, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 13, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Absolutely yes to the obligation to pick up my dog's waste. I should have said that up front in my post.

To the parent of the 3 year old girl: I'm a parent too. Last weekend my small dog was in front of our house with one of my kids (off leash) and a larger dog appeared with no owner (escapee?), the dogs had conflict and the larger dog nipped my kid, who grabbed our dog and ran inside terrified and in tears. No child should have to endure such an experience. In this case, the larger dog's owner (probably unintentionally) was at fault.

BTW - I've been arrested for participating in non-violent civil disobedience protesting war in Iraq, so I respectfully disagree with the post asserting that I'm cowardly about this stuff. I let my dog off-leash with full willingness to accept the risks and consequences.

Posted by Tired of it, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2007 at 7:18 pm

I am having a real problem with some unknown person repeatedly not cleaning up what their dog leaves on my lawn. I posted a sign asking people to please clean up after their dog. That worked for a while. Then the sign was stolen and this morning I had more dog poop to clean up.

Any suggestions other than a fence?

Posted by A resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 7:18 pm

The leach law in Palo Alto was a voter approved initiative passed in the 1960's. Dog lovers have tried on occasion to have Council overturn this leach law. If you want to overturn a voter approved proposition you will have to collect the required number of signatures (somewhere around 6000) to place it on the ballot. Good Luck

Posted by A resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 7:18 pm

The leach law in Palo Alto was a voter approved initiative passed in the 1960's. Dog lovers have tried on occasion to have Council overturn this leach law. If you want to overturn a voter approved proposition you will have to collect the required number of signatures (somewhere around 6000) to place it on the ballot. Good Luck

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 7:34 pm

What about cats. I am tired of cats coming into my yard and doing whatever cats do to mark their territory. My yard is not their territory and why should they be able to roam where they like?

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Many PAUSD schools, including Duveneck and Addison, do not allow dogs on campus during school hours.

Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2007 at 7:59 pm

"It's OK to violate a law -- but ONLY if I'm willing to accept the consequences. That's civil disobedience, a great American tradition."

Using this logic, I suppose you are ok with drivers running red lights then as long as they are prepared to suffer the consequences.

Posted by curious, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 13, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Dog Owner/Charleston Meadows - same logic that every criminal uses: graffiti tagger, people who litter, robbers, murders, etc. They don't support the legal rights of others, and they take the consequences if caught.

It seems to me, perhaps any incident by an off leash dog should be made a felony with mandatory prison time & 5 figure monetary fines.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 13, 2007 at 8:48 pm

jq public is right. What you are doing isn't civil disobedience. It's evading the law. Civil disobedience, a noble act, is an act against the strictures of the law intended to make a point ... something done in full view of the authorities in the expectation you might or will be forced to pay the consequences.

If you want to demonstrate your disagreement with the leash law, and your fealty to the civil disobedience principle, head over to city hall with your unleashed dog and your sign telling the rest of us and the police what you're up to. Then we'll believe your professions of being a noble civic reformer. Until then ...well, you're just a selfish law violator.

Posted by SkepticAl, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 13, 2007 at 9:23 pm

Dog Owner -

Civil disobedience is not breaking the law until you get caught and punished. It's breaking the law *in order* to be caught and punished, to expose the injustice you claim. Like the last guy said, go do it in front of those responsible for enforcing it, bring any like-minded people you can with you, and trigger the debate. See if you can win the hearts and minds of the people who can change the law. In the meantime, flouting the law in a way that may have adverse effects on those who do you no harm at all hardly impresses me or anyone else reading this, apparently.

Posted by Observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2007 at 11:25 pm

The one time I was bit by a dog, he was on a leash and the several other times I narrowly escaped bites were all from dogs on leashes. I dare say having a dog on a leash actually gives passers by a false sense of security. The real concern should be with the "dangerous breeds" out there and making sure they are neutered.
And as for poop, I'm not exactly sure what difference a leash makes, other than without one, the dog can do it further up on your lawn than with one.

Posted by JH, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 4:52 am

I assume that "DogOwner" won't object then the next time I'm in a Palo Alto restaurant or bar and light a cigarette.

Posted by A resident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 14, 2007 at 6:56 am

I wonder how many owners of unleached dogs are cited each year?

Posted by Another Dog Owner, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 14, 2007 at 7:52 am

I own a tiny dog, and all you folks out there who have given yourself permission to break the leash laws terrify me. My dog would be a tasty snack for any of the larger dogs off leash. I've had to walk away from parks and other areas dozens of times to ensure that my dog does not end up on a larger dog's menu.

And the poop! When one owns a dog (and I have always, every time, 100% picked up after mine), one's dog will help you find the many "treasures" left by other dog owners. There are thousands in Greenmeadow, and Cubberly apparently has a sign saying, "Let your dogs poop here and don't clean it up!" that I cannot find.

It must be nice to decide that one has no obligations toward other dog owners so that one can let their dogs run free and not clean up after them. But that's not civil disobedience, it's merely terrible citizenship: self-indulgence personified.

Here in Palo Alto, however, we're all "entitled" to break the laws with which we don't agree. Did you not all get the memo? (Neither did I, but I have inferred it from the behavior I've seen around dogs, traffic, smoking in front of businesses, etc.)

Since everyone here is above average and therefore "entitled" to great things, our laws and our community owe US everything, not vice versa. "Ask not what your country can do for you..." has no place in the current community mindset. It's all about each one of us maximizing our own utility at any given moment--and screw the laws and the impact on the rest of the community.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 14, 2007 at 8:54 am

Regarding dog poop - why do people think its ok for a dog to poop or pee anywhere? I have a 2 1/2 year old dog who has never gone anywhere but our yard.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:07 am

I would like to point out that the leash laws also protect the dogs that are leashed. You never know when something irresistable will attract your dog to cross the street, and they don't tend to be good at watching for cars. A dog suddenly running into the street can also cause a car to swerve and crash, and guess who is at fault.

If dogs are on-leash, then YOUR dog may be protected from larger and more aggressive dogs, do you really want their owners following your example? Every year people are attacked by dogs who were allowed off-leash by owners who were "sure" their dogs would NEVER do that. Do you REALLY want to encourage those owners?

If your dog ever actually surprised you and bit someone, even if only while playing, you might be forced to put your dog down. Do you want to risk that just because you don't want to mess with a leash? You could also lose a lot of assets, including your house, under the heading of "punative damages".

I suggest you protect your dog, yourself, and your neighbors, and keep your dog on-leash when he is supposed to be. I will promise you this, right now: If your dog ever hurts one of my kids, I will be sorely tempted to kill that dog on the spot with my bare hands. I believe I have the strength, easily, and my mood will not favor the dog.

Posted by Civil Disobeyer, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:28 am


Don't worry I'll save you the effort, and just shoot the dog that hurts your kids with the .45 I intend to start carrying around town to express my disagreement with the gun laws.

We're going to be living in an interesting place now that we find out we can ignore laws we disagree with and comfort ourselves that it's noble civil disobedience, not lawlessness.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 10:42 am

Do me a favor and also shoot the guy who is protesting the anti-drug laws by providing drugs to kids in the neighborhood. But don't shoot the people who are protesting indecency laws by cavorting naked on the front lawn, they are entertaining. I am not sure about the people who are protesting my materialism by liberating my belongings, maybe if you just wing them.

Posted by have the law or don't, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2007 at 11:58 am

in the recent PAW article former PA Mayor Vic Ojakian admits (quite smugly i thought) to repeatedly violating the leash law....

Posted by OutlawJoe, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2007 at 12:19 pm

You're my kind of guy, CivilDisobeyer. I'm going to express my displeasure with "Roberti-Roos" and express my support for the troops by carrying my M-4 Carbine on a sling around town. Maybe you can join me when I set up some old washing machines for target practice with my "evil" Barrett .50 BMG rifle.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Gee, this sounds like fun. Let me get out my 50 cal black powder (express displeasure for modern firearms) and join you. I think I would like to express some displeasure at raccoons and opossums, a couple of squirrels, and the loud car radios outside my house at 2:00am.

But I think we are getting off on a tangent here. Let's do this:
Load the number for Animal Control into the speed-dial of your cell phone and express displeasure at off-leash dogs by using it.

Posted by OutlawJoe, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Well, tangents can be fun, but we shouldn't forget why we are posting in this thread. I think the main point is that so many of us want off-leashers to know that it makes us nervous when we see your dogs loose near our kids and pets. Yes, 98% of the time, everything will work out, but for the 2% of the time that something bad can occur, is it that much to ask to just follow the rules?

Posted by teresag, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 14, 2007 at 4:13 pm

How did the cats get off so easily? Let's leash them too. Mine is pretty dangerous and if I could catch her I'd leash her.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 14, 2007 at 4:22 pm

I am sure the squirrels and birds would appreciate that.

Posted by sp, a resident of Stanford
on Mar 14, 2007 at 5:03 pm

In today's most recent article, it was reported that Sean's medical bills are $10,000 and still climbing. Presumably, the owner of the dog who bit him is footing this... I hope that Dog Owner takes note- this can also be a consequence for one who is willing to flout the leash law.

Posted by Leslie, a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2007 at 6:27 pm

Pretty entertaining thread.

I no longer run in the early mornings because of the number of lunleashed dogs in the early morning in Greer, Seal, Mitchell and Ramos parks. There are several dog owners who repeatedly leave their dogs off leash. These dogs have rushed me and one has bit my husband. I have tried to talk with the dog owners but they usually ignored me. I called the city, several times, but they did not do anything so I stopped running in my neighborhood. I guess the City of Palo Alto's position is that dog owners have a right to more enjoyment of the parks and streets that I do. This is actually amazing the dog attacks are considered. When someone sues the city we will see change.

Posted by rwc, a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2007 at 6:54 pm

TO: "Dog Owner," the very smug resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood

I am disabled and use a cane. While out for walks, I have had to deal with many dog owners who have the same "I choose to let my dog run off-leash" attitude as you have. Just know that if your dog knocks me down, I will be suing you right out of your Palo Alto house.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 14, 2007 at 8:59 pm

I don't know why people can't follow laws. They're there to keep people in line. Who is really dumb enough to break laws? I'm going to do what JustMe said and save that number. It really is a good idea I intend on carrying out.

If any off-leash-owners have a problem with this, well, I don't really care.

Posted by small dog owner, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2007 at 11:33 pm

The best thing we can do is to increase the fine for off leash dogs to say $1000, and use that to fund more animal control patrols to enforce it, for a small while.

Large off leash dogs scare us. Our small dog was close to being attacked by one in redwood city.

Why should the law be optional in palo alto?

Posted by Pangolin, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2007 at 11:38 pm

There are so many rude selfish dog owners now, dog attacks are at epidemic levels . It may surprise you that dogs send many times more children to the hospital than weapons. Dog noise pollution is a serious issue. It destroys the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of quiet decent people who are tortured by noisy non responsible do owners... animal control is not effective- this site has the anser a new method of dog control that would work.

Web Link

Lots of info there about how to deal with non responsible dog owners.

Posted by another PA resident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 15, 2007 at 6:54 am

...the original poster was clearly trying to bait a response. With these trolling posts, I sometimes wonder if someone has a homework assignment or an op/ed piece due: perhaps they are just bored and want to poke at us with a verbal stick.

I don't know how the dog nuisance laws regarding dogs are set up, but I hope that repeated violaters have their dogs taken away from them. I don't know if that sounds extreme, or not, but fines aren't a punishment for this person,-- more like a fee to the city to run his dog leash-free.

A while ago I heard a story from a 90 year old woman about her youth: a loose dog had nipped at her heels while she was walking home from school. She told her father about it when she got home, and he saddled up his horse, got his rifle, and went looking for that dog.

These days we correctly avoid vigilanteeism and its excesses, and we entrust police/animal control to handle loose dogs (and their smug owners). But, if the laws aren't enforced, or the punishments aren't noticeable to the offenders, it leaves the general public (favorably pre-disposed to dogs, or not) in a quandry about how to handle this real public annoyance/health/safety problem.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 9:46 am

Is there a lawyer in the house?

Is there anyone here that can address the issue of our options when the dog leash laws are not enforced? I think advice from a legal type would be helpful, and since it is anonymous they should feel free to give it.

What if someone carried a can of mace and hit any unleashed dog that approached him/her?

Is there a way to push for enforcement when you call the police or animal crontrol? (Key words or phrases that would spark action?)

Who should we call, animal control or police?

Would it be a good idea to push Animal control to periodically patrol the parks and cite violators? (The effort could pay for itself for a while.) "M'am, you dog is off leash and I am going to have to cite you for the violation. May I please see your identification?" "Sorry officer, I was just out jogging and I didn't bring my wallet." "That's okay m'am, just bring it with you when you come to pick up your dog at animal control. We will try not to cage your Shi Tsu with a pit bull."

Posted by a dog lover, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2007 at 11:58 am

It's OK to violate a law -- but ONLY if I'm willing to accept the consequences. That's civil disobedience, a great American tradition. But I must be willing to pay the fine if I'm caught.

What a selfish attitude. You can not put a price on the pain your dog does to another person but somehow it's OK because you're "willing to accept the consequences". This isn't about you and your dog it is about the safety of others.
I'm not willing to accept the consequences of your actions!

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 12:09 pm

I agree, there is mre at issue here than your willingness to accept a fine for your actions. There is a reason those laws are in place, and if you think the penalty is light enough to not be of concern, them perhaps the penalty needs to be increased.

There is a stop sign in front of my house and a 25 MOH speed limit all around. Some people blast through that intersection at high speed, apparently willing to accept the penalty of getting caught. But the first time a kid gets hit and hurt or killed, the driver is likely to find that the penalty is far more than he was willing to accept, and that will be BEFORE the police arrive. His/her own remorse, in a normal human, would be significant. If there is no remorse, then call the coroner, not the police.

There was an old Andy Griffith show that dealt with a movie star who got stopped for speeding through Mayberry. When he appeared before the judge, he laughed and asked how much the fine was, pulling out his wallet. The judge was unhappy with the idea that this clown had so little regard for the law, and ordered a fine of several thousand dollars, instead of the normal $15. The rest of the show consisted of the face-off between the judge who wanted to make the actor feel some concequence, and the actor who was outraged at being treated differently. But the message was clear: If the penalty is not adaquate to cause compliance, increase the penalty.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm

My personal view is that Palo Alto is not a suitable place to own a large dog. All dogs need plenty of exercise and the freedom to run off leash. This type of lifestyle for any animal is what helps to keep it healthy and happy. Too many restrictions for a dog only harms its disposition.

Consequently, I would like to see the licensing laws amended so that homeowners (or renters) are only allowed to keep a dog up to a certain size that is suitable for their property. In other words, smaller dogs should be encouraged and the larger dogs should only be allowed to be kept on properties which are large enough to give them space to run free and get their exercise at home. In this way, dog owners would be able to obey the leash laws while out of their homes and give their pets the freedom of being unleashed at home. True, it may mean that they have to clean up their own backyards of poop and not have manicured lawns, but then that is one of the choices you make when you decide to have a dog in your family.

Posted by Searcher, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 15, 2007 at 1:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 2:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sue Dremann, a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 15, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Animal Control Services said that complaints regarding in-progress off-leash dogs should be made by calling the police dispatch at 650-329-2413 (they refer the calls to animal control). For information or if you have questions regarding the leash law, call 650-496-5971.

Posted by Greg Martin, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 15, 2007 at 5:51 pm

Just remember, in my case, had things gone just slightly differently, the real "fine" for having a dog off leash would have been one dead 5 year old.

Posted by Dog Owner, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 15, 2007 at 6:21 pm

...the original poster was clearly trying to bait a response

You sniffed me out (to use a dog behavior analogy). It's just too easy to throw the wingnuts a bone (a pun intended again).

I'm actually not an anti-leash-law crusader. I'm just a regular old Palo Alto resident with a home, spouse, kids, job a some time left over for volunteering in the community. I don't want anybody to be hurt by my dog or anyone else's. I just choose to behave like former Mayor Ojakian and Deputy DA Jay Boyarsky and let my dog run off-leash in certain parks/schools at certain times under close supervision.

We can't legislate our way out of all risk. Perhaps keeping the existing leash law, comblined with complaint-only enforcement (just like Code enforcement) and polite, respectful, face-to-face dialogue between dog owners and those with special, legitimate fears (parents of small kids, elderly disabled) when off-leash dogs are encountered is all we really need.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 15, 2007 at 11:45 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

I am sorry, the "face to face diologue" won't work. By the time I politely explain to you that my child has a mortal fear of dogs, your dog has already left you and jumped all over him. If you are going to complain that your dog is better behaved and under control even when off-leash, maybe he is, but if we allow you to do this, then how do we stop the next guy who doesn't know or control his dog half as well as he thinks he does? I once heard of a little old lady trying to walk with a walker who was assaulted by a big golden who only wanted to get the tennnis balls on the legs of the walker, with nearly tragic results. I know my dog would never hurt anyone, she is a tiny thing that just wants desperately to be loved, but I have seen children recoil in fear at her approach. Some of these children may have had experiences with other off-leash dogs. It'snot their problem, it's yours, you have to keep your dog under control. It is also for the safety of your dog. There are lots of other dog owners out there who think their dogs are harmless and are very surprised when someone has to make a trip to the vet to get their dog stitched up thanks to a "good dog". My mother had one of those "good dogs", it happens. Please, for everyone's safety, keep your dog leashed when he/she is supposed to be leashed.

Posted by Doog, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2007 at 10:16 am

Here is a link to today's article in the PA Weekly:

Web Link

Of interest is the following part of the story:

"Some dog owners, confident that their dogs are well-trained and well-behaved while not on leashes, think Palo Alto's leash law — which fines $100 for off leash dogs in public areas — has room for interpretation.

Two such violators are Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Jay Boyarsky and former Palo Alto mayor Vic Ojakian, who were photographed by the Weekly with off-leash dogs at Addison Elementary School last week."

Good to see that our local government officials feel that the law does not apply to them.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Walter Hays School
on Mar 16, 2007 at 10:37 am

Dog Owner-You dont WANT people to get hurt. Nobody does (except serial killers.) Your dog probably doesnt know that, and thinks for him/herself whenever offleash. For your information I'm NOT taking your side. Sometimes I really wish people weren't this ignorant in this town. It really kills me this is how people behave in the real world. (Again), I intend on using those numbers to the fullest extent. Ignorance should be battled with punishment.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2007 at 10:56 am

No, ignorance should be battled with education. A few fines can be very educational. Raising the fines so that they are noticable can increase their educational level. Publicity can bring peer pressure into the educational process for those who recognize peers, burning torches and pitchforks can help educate those to superior to recognize peers.

But it all comes down to educating the ignorant, not punishing them. We are trying to educate them to the fact that we are serious, the laws are serious, and we don't take their muffled snickering kindly.

Posted by dott31, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 16, 2007 at 1:24 pm

As a doglover of the 75 years of my life, I nevertheless object to the assumptions of dogowners that in their minds permit their breaking of city rules or ordinances while they let their dogs off leash in elementary schoolyards at night. Former Mayor Ojakian and Councilman Klein. what are you thinking of? I've voted for both of you, but now I have to question whether or not you are both victims of hubris and what the CA Dept. of Education has to say about schoolyards being utilized as dogruns at night. While our public officials undoubtedly are cleaning up after their dogs, are they also cleaning up after the other dogs and their owners attracted to these school sites at night? No doubt some private pet owners are conscientious; others are not; it seems officials and non-officials alike are being encouraged to violate laws. Schoolyards should be as pristine as possible when the children arrive for their classes in the morning. There are three dogruns in the city. They should be utilized in their confined spaces while the rest of --say, Mitchell Park-- is utilized for its designated purposes such as playgrounds for young children, library services, etc. Your dogs will not suffer the pain of a mutilated or infected child. They will not even be aware of the pain of a mutilated or infected child. Certainly we have room for dogs as beloved family members in our society--but not in the schoolyards and on the playgrounds visited by the children of Palo Alto, some of whose families for various reasons have chosen not to deal with dogs at all.

Posted by Respectful, South of Midtown, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2007 at 9:03 am

Three comments:

First, it is interesting that some of our public officials -- supposed community leaders -- not only choose which laws to obey, but when caught they try to justify their behavior rather than admitting they are wrong and behaving properly. This exhibits a profound absence of integrity and a general disrespect for community. Not to mention that it's a bad example for the kids, sending a clear signal that it's okay to pick and choose which laws to obey.

Second, missing from the discussion of off-lease dogs is that it truly does inhibit the rights of others. Mitchell Park has a dog run, yet the incidence of off-leash dogs outside the run is on the rise. I don't want my always on-leash dog to mix with dogs we don't know. And of course when she sees other dogs in a full-out run, that's what she wants to do, too. I can't count the number of times we've had to reverse our course to avoid dogs that are off leash. People who disobey the law are laying claim to areas that are supposed to belong to all of us. What a shame.

And finally, there are numerous, marvelous breeds/mixes of dogs from which to choose. If a person wants a dog that needs to run, there are options: run, bike or roller blade with the dog on-leash, create activities that work within the smallest of backyards, or go off leash in a dog run. If that's too much effort, get a small dog with short legs.

There is really no excuse to break the law. When people do, I say book 'em, Danno.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2007 at 11:00 am

If there is such prevalent use of our schools as dog runs and the police are aware of it, why aren't they ticketing offenders? (As a side effect it could eliminate a minute amount of our deficit.)

Posted by ed, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2007 at 9:47 am

Do coyote's need a leash?

Posted by annoyed neighbor, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 22, 2007 at 2:44 pm

I also live in the Charleston Meadows neighborhood and you maybe
the person that I have confronted along with others in that
neighborhood. I don't mind when a dog is off leash and they stay
near their owner. Also that they clean up after their dog. The person
that I have confronted lets her dog run wild (back and forth across
the street and often several house away from her). Several times
I have been walking my dog when she is out and her dog comes
charging at us growling. Of course, then my dog starts to growl.
This is just annoying having to worry that I maybe be in the middle
of a dog fight. Not to mention that it's irresponsible to let
your dog run through the street. He may be hit or cause an accident.

Posted by Ambivalent dog owner, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2007 at 4:55 pm

While I understand why leash laws exist, I, too, have been known to violate the law at various local parks or school yards at off-hours. Letting my dog run around off-leash is generally the only way I can get him to really get some exercise. I try to be vigilant at all times -- I pick up his poop and I keep him away from others (dogs and humans) until I can assess the potential dynamic.

By no means is it my intention to "blame the victim," but I would like to point out that parents could do a better job of educating their children, even little ones, about how to behave around (unknown) dogs. An earlier post (by jq public) said, "My 3 year old daughter was bit by an off leash dog who she ran towards in the sandbox before I could intercede." I feel horrible that her child has been traumatized. I only wish the little girl had been taught not to run towards a dog. The dog probably felt threatened and acted out of fear or surprise. The dog may also have been startled if the child was laughing, yelling or waving her her arms excitedly (as 3 yr olds often do).

I also wish parents would teach their children that running away from a dog is also dangerous behaviour. Dogs, by nature, will chase. A screaming child makes the chase all the more interesting. Please teach your children that when they are afraid of a dog, the best thing to do is to freeze and avoid eye contact with the dog before slowly moving away.

My dog has always been incredibly gentle around children. But when we meet someone new, I encourage the child to approach him slowly and to offer his/her hand to be sniffed before trying to pet him or play with him. High-pitched squeals of delight, while cute, are discouraged.

Having a dog on leash is no guarantee that the dog will be well-behaved. Remember the incident in Midtown? Sometimes, being on leash will make a dog feel more vulnerable and therefore more likely to act out defensively. My point is not that leash laws should not exist, but rather that a leash is no panacea.

Ultimately, people need to take responsibility for their behaviour, for their dog's behaviour, and even for their children's behaviour.

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2007 at 5:24 pm

Another consideration not mentioned here yet is the example you off-leashers are setting for others. Okay, your dog is wonderful, never jumps on people, never scares kids, even carries and uses his own poopie bag. But seeing him run free, other owners, including owners of less well-behaved dogs, will think "Must be okay to let them run here" or "If they can do it I can too", or whatever. You are thereby encouraging the release of other less well behaved animals that ARE a problem. How can we say "Your dog is okay running free, but that one isn't." If one of those other dogs bites someone, YOU are partially responsible for encouraging and enabling the release of that dog.

The law is there for a reason, and it is a good law. If you break the law, what does that make you?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2007 at 5:56 pm


Thank you for your thoughtful post. I agree wholeheartedly with you. Children must be taught to respect all animals and that respect includes not frightening even big dogs. I have tried to teach my children to never approach any dog unless it is with the owner's consent, to be gentle, quiet and let the dog take the lead in whether it wants to be petted or not. Children learn by example not by instinct when it comes to how to behave with animals. If a child is taught to respect the dogs they meet out and about regardless of whether they are leashed or not, then they are much less likely to have a traumatic experience. However, I do not like to see dogs, even those leashed, anyway near the children's play areas. Let's leave some areas for the children just like we have some areas for the dogs.

Posted by Palo Alto Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2007 at 7:30 pm

Ambivilent dog owner -- you can try and 'teach' a three year old all you like but if you've ever had children yourself you'll know that at that age they are not yet reasoning beings. If a toddler runs excitedly towards a sandbox and finds a dog running right at him, of course he's going to be scared and run the other way. That's why off leash dogs are banned in our parks. I'm afraid it sure sounds like you're blaming the victim to me.

How about this: instead of teaching my children not to laugh in public or never to run excitedly across a Palo Alto park for fear of startling a dog (as you seem to suggest I do), how about I repeatedly tell my young children to distrust all dogs they come across off leash (including yours, because there's no way they can make an acurate spilt second assessment of the intentions of dog running in their direction) in the hope that by the time they are five or so they get it.

So, fine, I'll make sure to teach my kids not to run from dogs, even when they are terrified, beause that would be 'provocative,' and might result in a pair of jaws violently shaking their neck, like that poor five-year-old boy at Hoover (although you must admit that's a tough thing to expect anyone to remember when a creature the same size or larger than you is barrelling towards you).

In the meantime, while my children are still too young to make rational decisions in the face of immediate potential danger, how about you don't give yourself the freedom to pick and choose the laws you break and be a good example to all dog owners in town by ALWAYS leashing your dog AS THE LAW REQUIRES except when in a dog run. If your dog needs more excercise and you can't provide it legally where you live, then maybe you need to find a new pet and a new community with adequate exercise facilities for your choice of dog.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2007 at 8:39 pm

PA Dad

I hope that you can teach your three year old not to run into the street. I hope that you teach your three year old never to run after a dog, cat, or butterfly. Children should be taught of the dangers in life and at the age of three, I am sure children do know that they should obey the parent's voice saying "stop, danger". If not, I hope that you don't let your child near a hot stove, hot iron, or any other danger. I am not condoning dogs off leash and I am not condoning dogs anywhere near children's playgrounds, I am just agreeing that children should be taught to respect strange dogs. If you take your child to a playground then you are still expected to watch your child. If a child tries to climb on top of a play structure against the structures design you would tell your child to play in a safe manner. If a child approaches a strange dog, I would expect a parent to tell the child the right way to handle the situation and not to scare the dog.

Dog's and children' playgrounds do not mix. If I had my way I would put a fence around all playgrounds with a child proof catch. I would then make sure no dogs were allowed inside. This would stop children running off and prevent off leash dogs (which I am not advocating) from getting in there. Q E D - problem solved.

Posted by Ambivalent dog owner, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2007 at 11:01 pm

PA Dad (in Collelge Terrace),

I will echo Parent's response to you. Parents should be able to teach their children, even three year olds, about things that are dangerous -- like a hot stove, or possibly a strange dog -- and how to respond -- like don't touch, and freeze instead of run screaming. They should at least recognize the "danger" tone in your voice.

Do not get me wrong. I do not think a dog should be off-leash in a playground or in a sandbox. What happened to jq public's little girl is awful, and the dog owner is certainly to blame for letting his/her dog be in the sandbox. All I was trying to point out was that parents may be able to help avert such situations by teaching their children how to behave around dogs.

As a side note: when I lived in College Terrace, one of the neighborhood's four local parks was an unofficial off-leash park in the morning and evenings, and dog owners and parents co-existed peaceful. One friend had a son who was terrified of dogs. He would stand on top of a metal structure and watch warily; over time he became more comfortable interacting with the dogs. His little brother loved the dogs and at a very young age learned not to scream and run around them, even though he was always very excited to see them.

Although I do not condone breaking the law as a general matter, I am guilty of doing so now and then. Sometimes I exceed the speed limit. And sometimes I let my dog run around in an open, grassy space, away from play areas and children.

I am offended by your suggestion that I find a new pet and a new community. Palo Alto is as much my home (and my dog's) as it is yours.

Posted by mom and owner, a resident of University South
on Mar 23, 2007 at 10:53 am

As a dog owner and a mom, I'm sensitive to this issue. I've had my dog "surprised" by kids who come up from behind him to try and startle him while on his leash (with the other end in my hand) and I've had my share of kids try to "make him bark" for laughs. Fortunately, my dogs was good-natured and lived with two rowdy kids of his own and I will always stop and try to explain to children the right way to approach a dog they don't know, etc.

On the other hand I also have an unconfident, but sweet, rescue dog that is terrified of other dogs and will become aggressive if approached by another dog without advance "preparation" – treats, happy voices, brief sniffs, then longer, etc. I rarely take him for walks anymore because of off leash dogs that come bounding up to us. I know all the tricks for distracting my dog but I can't handle an off-leash creature. So we don't go out.

While I appreciate freedoms, I worry about any off-leash dog that I might encounter when I'm with mine, on a leash, sometimes with a muzzle. I am responsible for both dogs – mine and the one that is off-leash. Is that any more fair?

Posted by JustMe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2007 at 10:58 am

The funny thing is that when you tell a child what is dangerous and to stay away from that thing, once the get the message, their natural reaction is to get away from that dangerous thing as quickly as possible, to make space. Cars, motorcycles, rattlesnakes, hot stoves, and lots of other dangerous things will not pursue. Off-leash dogs may pursue. So now I have to ask my very young child to make a difficult judgement call on when to run or not? Sorry, no.

If your off-leash dog hurts my child or causes my child to come to harm, (by running away from your dog and into another danger for instance,) there are going to be SERIOUS consequences, especially if you have been warned.

Posted by Carol Mullen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Attorneys? Any comments on the potential risks of : a) not enforcing the leash laws on the books, and b) repealing them? Has the City set aside funds to cover its liability?

What is the City's liability now? Does Palo Alto increase its liability if it repeals current leash laws? Does the BOE now share the risks with dog owners if playgrounds are used as off-leash parks?

Most of my dogs enjoyed being trained to obey when off-leash. Especially, they loved walking patterns with me. I strongly recommend training your dog rather than trusting to his/her good temperament.

There used to be more choices of off-leash areas then than there are now, so I was never tempted to break leash laws. I think that I would have resisted the temptation, but I'm not sure my daughter would have done so. Perhaps the utility bills should have occasional reminders as to where the off-leash areas are.

There is some additional risk for the off-leash dog as well.

With one of our dogs (a Siberian husky), no amount of training brought her to the point of resisting that rotting package of KFC in the bushes.

This is a more complex problem than the Weekly editorial suggests.

Posted by valérie Piazzalunga, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2007 at 10:08 pm

My son, 6, is terrorized of dogs. An unleashed dog (any dog) coming at him will trigger screaming and shaking which tends to scare dogs and may make them agressive. But in general, I feel that many dog owners are so sure about their pets' behavior (don't be afraid, this is a really friendly dog) that they tend to be insensitive to some people's fear of dogs (such comment will not make my child more comfortable) or simply other people's lack of interest in a dog or their lack of desire to be approached by a dog. Finally there are so many examples of dogs' unusual aggressive behavior that it seems really safe and sound to simply leash them when out in public.

Posted by john adams, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2007 at 1:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Dog Owner, a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2007 at 10:53 am

People, people, people. What has this world come to that we think that it is okay for kids to now be trained to be afraid of dogs if they are found to be off lead? Because, let's face it, all of you posters that say that your kids are traumatized by off lead dogs have placed that fear into their heads. In fact, you are likely the same people that insist that if your child is allergic to peanuts, their school has to remove all peanut-related products from the school's lunch menu. You cannot protect your kids from all of life's dangers even if your want to with things such as a leash law. If a dog is truly a threat, I am sure that there are ways that the community can institute a mandatory restraint for THAT particular dog. Otherwise, it is actually far more healthier for dogs and society as a whole to let the dogs not be on a lead. Indeed, if a dog is on lead, it is more likely to be aggressive because the flight response is taken away as an option for it. As for the poop factor of dogs, as one poster correctly pointed out, the same type of people who do not pick up after their dog while it is off lead is going to be the same person who will not pick up while it is on lead. Six feet of leather is not gonna change any of them.

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