The Golden Gate National Parks are currently undergoing an accessibility study to improve access for people with disabilities. Today, the Wild Equity Institute submitted these comments to the Golden Gate National Parks requesting that the park improve its off-leash dog management as part of its accessibility plan.
Off-leash dogs are one of the key accessibility problems at the Golden Gate National Parks. A 2003 survey conducted by a national guide dog user group indicates that 89% of guide dog users have had their dogs interfered with by off-leash dogs, and 42% of guide dog users have had their guide dogs attacked by off-leash dogs. At best, this can be disorienting for guide dog users. In the worst cases, service dogs have been killed or injured in ways that make them incapable of providing the services the dog was trained for.
Because of this, organizations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind recommend that their graduates avoid any place where off-leash dogs are known to roam. Since off-leash dogs are permitted to roam in nearly every National Park unit in San Francisco, the off-leash policy is a de facto exclusion for guide dog users: in the very park Congress created to make National Park values more accessible to people.
There is a simple solution to this problem: ensure off-leash dog areas are safe by enclosing them with a physical barrier. This is the recommendation of many dog advocates, and has been adopted by the California State Parks in their 2001 pilot program for off-leash dogs. Physical barriers protect our pets from running into harm’s way; they allow park users to choose to enter the area, rather than having off-leash dogs imposed upon their recreational choices; they ensure that people and wildlife remain free from interference and disturbance; and they clearly demarcate the off-leash area, enabling people to easily comply with park regulations.
If you would also like to encourage the GGNRA to implement safe off-leash dog areas while keeping the park accessible, you may submit comments on this web form.