City Council amends dog leash ordinance for trails

City Council amends dog leash ordinance for trails
On Sept. 22, Buena Vista Park will allow dogs off leash on the trails. Signage will be provided including off leash restrictions at the duck pond. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene

VISTA — Walkers and runners who travel the Buena Vista Park trails can now have their four-legged sidekicks without a leash. The Vista City Council on Aug. 22 amended a park ordinance that now allows dogs off leash on public property within the natural areas and trails within South Buena Vista Park and Buena Vista Park from 7 to 10 a.m., and then again from 3 p.m. to dusk.

The new off-leash law goes into effect on Sept. 22.

Currently, dogs are allowed off leash on trails at South Buena Vista Park, but with various time restrictions. The new ordinance allows for extended hours as well as permitting unleashed dogs in the natural areas with trails at Buena Vista Park. Residents requested the Buena Vista Park addition.

Councilwoman Amanda Rigby opposed the ordinance while other City Council members approved the amendment.

Rigby said she loves dogs and has been a dog owner in Vista. Her concerns stem from people not following instructions.

“I see at South Buena Vista Park, there are rules posted and they are ignored regularly,” she said.

Rigby explained while off-leash rules were for the trails, she was troubled that this would overflow to other areas of Buena Vista Park such as the grassy areas and the duck pond.

“Whether you want them to or not, once you say we have no enforcement, it’s going to happen,” Rigby said. “And I don’t want to see that happen.”

As for signs displaying those off-leash rules, Rigby said they must be prominent for people to notice them. Dog waste bag stations was also another topic of discussion.

“People miss a lot of what their dogs leave behind over there,” she said. “I don’t see how this is going to work and keep it on the trails. I honestly don’t. Once you let them off-leash in that (Buena Vista) park, they’re going to be all over the park.”

Therron Dieckmann, the director of Recreation and Community Services at the city of Vista, shared that dozens of people walk these trails every day. The public trails connect Buena Vista Park and South Buena Vista Park.

Council members wanted to know about potential safety issues regarding dogs without a leash on the trails.

Staff considered whether the city had any liability claims for a dog bite, or any dog-related litigation, over the last decade since South Buena Vista Park offered its off-leash ordinance.

“As far as the litigation that we’re aware of, there was none regarding dog liability,” Dieckmann said. “I believe there was one claim, but that had to do with a dog accidentally stepping on a sharp object in some mulch.”

Dieckmann shared there was no claim about off-leash dogs leading to aggression issues.

Deputy Mayor John Franklin started off by approving the resolution with the amendment that it comes back to the City Council in 12 months for a review.

Signage will also be enforced to help dog owners on restricted off-leash areas, which will include the duck pond.

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