Dog owners demand more time at parks

ENCINITAS — Some dog owners are still up in arms over the limited hours set aside for off-leash activity by canines at city parks.
The city currently allows off-leash dogs from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Viewpoint, Orpheus and Sun Vista parks. A trail segment between Encinitas Boulevard and Mountain Vista is also available for off-leash dogs from dusk to dawn.
Dog owner and activist Susie Cohen held a press conference Oct. 7 to garner attention to the plight of dog owners who she claims are treated unfairly. At least 18 dog owners received $445 tickets on July 31, when plain-clothes officers in unmarked cars entered four city parks after off-leash hours expired at 6 p.m. Cohen said many of the people who received tickets are senior citizens on fixed incomes and cannot afford to pay. “We think it (issuing tickets) was just done for the money,” she said.
Cohen said she would like to see a city policy that does not restrict hours or days for off-leash dogs at parks. “If the City Council would pass this it would make the tickets retroactive,” she claimed. Cohen also claimed that the City Council is delaying a vote. “It’s been four weeks (since the last public meeting discussing the issue). What are you doing?” she asked. Cohen competed for attention with at least 40 dogs that ran around the park during her presentation.
During a regular meeting Sept. 9, the council directed city staffers and the Parks and Recreation Commission to consider adding two locations for off-leash dogs to access, including Glen Park and Hawk View Park. It also directed staff to research whether increased hours were possible at the three current off-leash park locations.
At least two councilmen indicated support for creating separate off-leash dog areas from the general park. Councilmen Dan Dalager and Jerome Stocks said off-leash dogs should have their own area if possible.
Several dog owners support an all-access approach to off-leash dogs at city parks. Vickie Schipper was present at View Point park during the press conference with her service dog, Leo. “We need a place for them to play,” she said. Julie Rose, who received a ticket for having her dog, Shanti, off-leash after hours at the same park said she was granted an extension. She supports the idea of creating a separate area for dogs to play as well as extended hours and days at increased locations. “We have to go to a park every day because I don’t have a yard,” she said.
Dog owner Bob Shaughnessy said he brings his 3-year-old dog, Cody, to View Point park three days a week. He supports expanding the evening hours, especially in the winter. “It gets dark so early and there aren’t any lights here,” he said.


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