Fines Put Big Bite on Dog Owners

By Katia López-Hodoyán
|  Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009  |  Updated 8:56 AM PDT
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A controversy over leash rules

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Dozens of North County residents have been fined hundreds of dollars for unleashing their dogs at two parks in Encinitas. Now, some are questioning whether it's safe to allow dogs to roam free at public parks at all.

John Pierce describes his Encinitas neighborhood as "heaven for dogs."

“We have so many dogs here it's unbelievable," Pierce said. "It seems like every second house has a dog or more.”

Everyday he walks his two dogs by Hawk View Park on Blue Heron Avenue. But deciding whether or not the park should go to the dogs is dividing the neighborhood.

“I think it's up to whether children and dogs can co-exist in a relatively small area,” Pierce said.

Tuesday night the city's Park and Recreation Commission considered whether to allow unleashed dogs at Hawk View Park and at Glen Park on Orinda Drive for a few hours in the morning and afternoon.

Some residents have been fined up to $445 for letting their dogs roam free.

“To think you're breaking the law when you're playing in your neighborhood park with your dog and you're getting a ticket that's worth that kind of money,” said Laurie Michaels, a dog owner who thinks off-leash hours at parks benefits the whole neighborhood.

“This is really about sharing, and by opening up more parks with hours, you are avoiding overcrowding at the limited parks you have now,” she said. 

Not everyone was ready to let the dogs out. Some consider off-leash dogs at public parks a safety issue.

“If the city feels that we need another dog park, then build one, but leave the kids out of it,” one woman said at the meeting. “I do not want to risk any unknown dog biting my child or myself.” 
 

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