Tough To Enforce Leash Laws

You may experience the Dog Wars in Montclair, simply by wandering the streets and local paths.  In one camp, there are people who want dogs to be leashed.  In another camp, there are owners who want their dogs to run free.

Most of the time, there’s detente because Oakland already has leash laws.  Some city parks allow leashed dogs, and a few have controlled and fenced areas to unleash dogs.  On the surface, we have a well-organized and civilized way of keeping both camps happy.

Dogs On Leash

Dog Bites Woman

However, some dog owners are blithely ignoring the rules of order.  Last week, there was a stellar example of dog-bites-woman on the Shepherd Canyon path.  One runner reported she had been bitten three times by a white-coated dog – and twice during a single day!

This dog owner “refuses to put the dog on a leash and does not respond to my request to be a responsible pet owner,” explained the victim.  “I would hate for other runners, children or casual walkers to experience what I have over the past several weeks.”

Ranger Rescue

While details have been reported to the Oakland Police Department, this is hardly high on their list of priorities.  It used to fall to the Oakland Rangers, who are now an endangered species.  Ranger Kent McNab still responded to this latest victim and to locals:

Message to Victim:

If you see her [the dog owner] again, please call the Park Rangers directly at 482-7888, and we will try to contact her.

Although there are only two rangers now, and we only work 10am – 6pm Wednesdays – Sundays, we can usually respond much quicker than a police officer during those hours.

Message to Locals:

With only two rangers left for over 150 parks, we try to patrol the trail a couple of times a week.  Most of the things we do now are reactive, based on calls from citizens.

After 6pm and on Mondays, Tuesdays, and holidays, when there are no rangers, call the police non-emergency line [777-3333] and they will stack the call for the beat officer.

Ticketing Violators

Montclarion Robert Scribner believes the Shepherd Canyon path dog-attacks are not an anomaly.  “It is a matter of complete disdain for the law and the rights of others. I have witnessed and personally experienced several incidents like this one.”

During prime-time dog walking hours, around 7:30am weekdays, Scribner recommends that rangers set up shop and issue tickets to all owners of unleashed dogs running up the Shepherd path.

We noticed the rangers aren’t on duty then, but believe there are practical solutions like switching ranger hours, having rangers work a little overtime, or making this path a patrol priority for Oakland police.

Dog Wars Detente

Well there should be detente between the two camps, because there’s room for co-existence.  The leashed camp seeks safe passage along the Shepherd path, whether for runners or families.  Let’s see if the laws can be enforced now.

All is not lost for the unleashed camp, who already use dog runs or visit more welcoming spots.  While this requires a quick drive uphill, owners happily take their off-leash pooches on endless Sibley, Huckleberry or Redwood Park trails.

It’s disappointing that the Shepherd path skirmishes are happening, as it points to a lack of civility.  What’s with these dog owners, who simply refuse to follow a few simple laws?  Anyway, we hope that detente is restored in our local Dog Wars, because we have bigger things to worry about.

Update: “The matter of dogs being walked without leashes, and the alleged woman with the dog that has bitten residents, is on MSIC’s radar screen,” said Nick Vigilante.  Anyone with info about this offending dog owner may write Nick at, and your identity will remain confidential.

6 thoughts on “Tough To Enforce Leash Laws

  1. Know thy dog. Classic case of 1 to 5-percent of bad apple dog owners giving the rest of us a bad name. Common sense goes a long way. In populated areas, especially busy trails, you have to have tighter control of your dog. I have had a dog for three years and can’t think of more than one or two occasions where I saw dog owners just negligent. Oakland has much more pressing problems than the need to set loose the leash police.

    1. How about “Leash thy dog” when it’s required by law. It’s gotten so that my son doesn’t want to walk with me down to the village via the Shepard Canyon trail for fear of being harassed by unleashed dogs. We haven’t had a problem with vicious animals, but just off-leash dogs that approach, jump on or otherwise greet with enthusiasm anyone they encounter. For children who are at eye level with some of these bigger dogs, or anyone who’s uncomfortable with dogs, this is frightening, and can lead to panicked reactions that can escalate the problem.

      It’s all so easily avoidable. We can live with sanctioned off-leash areas by choosing not to go there. We can also co-exist with dogs if their owners abide by the rules. The argument that one’s dog is well behaved and responds to verbal commands and is therefore OK to be off-leash in areas covered by leash laws doesn’t fly. What’s the standard for good behavior? It seems to be up to the individual dog owner as to what is or isn’t appropriate behavior. A leash makes it simple.

  2. Nice entry. As a responsible dog owner, I place tremendous value on the unleashed dog areas Oakland has to offer. Sadly, I would say there are a lot of irresponsible dog owners though.

  3. Huckleberry does not allow dogs!

    From MontclairOak: Thanks for the correction, Heidi. Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen any there. I just went to the EB Parks site and confirmed “no dogs allowed.”

  4. As a responsible dog owner, I am very angry at those who refuse to leash when appropriate.

    My dog and I enjoy lots of time off leash–but we are in permitted areas of Sibley, Redwood, Pt. Pinole, Tilden, and Pt. Isabel regional parks and the local Piedmont city parks (where Oakland residents have to pay for a permit).

    There is no excuse for having your dog off-leash where it is not permitted.

  5. Not to mention some people are afraid of dogs. You have to see West Oakland. It’s dogs everywhere, off leash. The gentrifiers don’t want to follow the rules.

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