Do Berkeley dog owners need to be put on a leash?

Berkeleyside contributor John Rieger today sets out to find out just how free our four-legged friends are in Berkeley. The wonderful photography is by Berkeleyside contributing photographer Nancy Rubin.

Catch up with Rieger’s previous podcasts, which cover bumper stickers, rules of the road for cyclists (one of Berkeleyside’s most popular multimedia offerings last year), and holiday gifts, all with photos by Rubin.

We are eager to hear your ideas for future podcasts. What subjects would you like John to cover? Which places would be ideal for him to pop up in? What questions should we be asking? Jot your ideas down in the Comments section below, or email us at tips@berkeleyside.com. But first, click on the play button above and enjoy today’s five-minute show.

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  • Lee

    I agree ..
    How many times has Everyone stepped in dog doo?  In a park, or on the sidewalk, or wherever?Is that “funny”?  Was the dog doo left there by an unleashed dog?  Or, even worse, by a leashed dog, as the “owner” looked on?

  • Lee

    And, MUCH MORE SERIOUSLY, folks — off leash dogs around children, in children’s parks, is REALLY NOT A GOOD IDEA.   Unless you place Dogs above Children.

  • A Mom

    A young person (high school or slightly older) was bitten by an off-leash dog at Willard Park in the last few months as witnessed by groups of young kids attending a city-run after-school program in the park. It was reported to animal control and they suggested that the BPD be called instead. I don’t know what came of it.

    It’s common for kids to be aggressively chased by off-leash dogs at Willard and my kids have had food torn out of their backpacks by off-leash dogs at Willard. I know my kids don’t have a lot of places they can freely run and be safe and, certainly, Willard Park is off the list. Too bad they have such a great after-school program there. I wish the city would pick a different park or enforce the leash law there. It’s unsafe and unpleasant.

  • Lee

    This is terrible.  Dogs are not first over humans.  It is Especially terrible when Berkeley has a dog park.  A perfectly good dog park.  In the virtual Center of the city.  Have these complaining dog owners gone Crazy?  The KIDS should be Leashed?  (I know, that was a “joke” — but what does that “joke” reveal?) I feel so sad for these people.  Remember, dog revering owners, YOU were a child once.

  • Lee

    My point is … maybe a little over simpatico identification with Dogs over Children is just … a wee bit … Strange?

  • AlexChav

    Don’t call them owners, you don’t own your children. Same with dogs, we are their “humans” or “companions”, or “life partners”

  • Lee

    “same with children” .. oooookaaaay … children and dogs are the same, equivalent.   so euthanasia … 

  • AlexChav

    Did you make a police report? I would have that dog off the streets. 

  • Lee

    if you had children .. would you have them spayed / neutered … ?or are you against spaying / neutering your “life partners”, too ?

  • Lee

    “Dog bites Child” is the same as “Child bites Dog”?
    Would the Child need to be “put down” for the future safety of other Dogs?

  • Bread

    To answer your question why some dog owners (myself included) do not like Ohlone is that it is small and easily filled up with dogs and people. The tight, fenced, high energy environment it creates is very stressful for many dogs. It is no accident that there seem to be a high number of scuffles and fights at Ohlone. In addition, many people who stay away from Ohlone do so because there seem to be some clueless owners who go there with their rowdy dog and sort of “check out” by ignoring them.
    I realize there are always these sort of dog owners but their behavior proves to be more of a risk for the rest of us when we visit a small enclosed space. I also have a very noisy dog and do not want to go to a park where noise is such an issue.
    That said, I think we have great options and are so lucky to have Cesar Chavez and Pt. Isabel. I much prefer these parks.
    So, no, it has nothing to do with pristine lawns. Most responsible dog owners will trudge through swampy, poopy ground in the freezing rain if it means their dog will get the exercise they need.

  • AlexChav

    Wow. These are all reasons why people who are using the park with leashed dogs, or to play soccer, etc. do NOT want you with your dogs in out parks. You are creating the very dog park you are trying to get away from.

    Clueless and entitled, a dangerous combo.

  • Lee

    What I hear you saying is that you don’t like Ohlone dog park … because there are too many dogs. AND too many rude dog Owners (yes, you DO OWN YOUR DOG — as you will find out in a lawsuit if YOUR dog bites somebody).

    Maybe we could create some PEOPLE parks — where NO DOGS are Allowed Whatsoever?

  • Lee

    How are any of you non leash dog owners going to feel if your dog ever mauls a child??  Are you coldly going to say … well .. “the kid’s fault!” … ?

  • AlexChav

    So a dog park is not good enough for your dog, so everyone else has to have their park turned into a dog park….that is logical.
    That is like saying public bathrooms are too stinky, so I prefer to go to the bathroom in the sandbox where it is clean – literally, as your dogs off leash leave feces that is hard for the owner to track down.

  • TN

    I remember that when I first moved to Berkeley in the ’70s it seemed to me that there were loose dogs all over the place. For instance I remember the two Huskies hanging out loose at the Buttercup all the time. Now it is very rare to see a dog running loose on the street in town. And most all dog owners now walk their dogs on leash. This was not the case back then. And no, people didn’t do a very good job of picking up after their dogs. People pick up much more now. I rarely have to clean up poop from my front yard.

    So I’m kind of surprised to hear all this vehement criticism of dog owners when it seems to me that the culture of dog ownership in Berkeley has changed so much and become so much more radically buttoned down.

    I’m missing something here. What is it?

  • AlexChav

    A person was just bitten at willard, did you not see the below comment? And dogs are off leash all the time, did you not see the video in this post. they said things like “we self police”. If a young person is bit by an off leash dog it is no laughing matter. that could instill a fear of dogs.

    War stories from the 70′s are no rationale. 

    Disclaimer: I have lived in Berkeley since 1981, and have noticed it has gotten WAY worse at the parks, especially Willard in the past 10 years. People driving up in their Lexus SUV and getting their dogs out to run, with complete disregard to people, even disregard to children.

  • JJ

    TN, you must be blessed with fantastic neighbors.  In our Berkeley neighborhood, 40% to 50% of the dogs I see being walked by their owners are NOT on a leash.  These off-leash dogs are NEVER both within 6 feet of said owner and under voice control (which the municipal code idiotically deems to be “on a leash” when anywhere but a park). These owners think there is nothing wrong with their dogs being loose and potentially out of control.  In fact, they never stop to so much as apologize when their dogs run up to myself and my leashed dog, often charging across the street.  Apart from this just being rude, its potentially dangerous on so many levels.  Even if the City was going to start enforcing the leash law, which it absolutely should do, it is unenforceable as written, and sanctions irresponsible pet ownership.  

    Also, in addition to all of the human trash on the streets near our house, there is lots of poop.  

  • Bread

    I don’t think any of you noticed that I said I go to other legally off leash areas. I did not suggest that dog owners should go to on-leash parks and just let their dogs run wild. In fact, I am against that and also against the around town off leash law in Berkeley.
    Please don’t clump all dog owners into one category so you can go “aggro” on them.

  • Sarah Hill

    I agree – it’s Very Important to socialize children (esp. those who are comfortable with jobs) to ALWAYS ask and to NEVER try to pet a dog who is tied up, in a car, or else wise without his owner. My girls (4 year old twins) have known this for 2 years and will occasionally ask me to approach a dog with owner so they can ask to pet them. Mostly though they are in the category of Terrified of dogs – mostly due to lax dog owners who let their dogs bound all over, including directly toward them when we are at local parks. There are dog owners in our own neighborhood who I am very close to calling the police on because they let their dogs walk without a leash and they run up to our door and scratch on our screen door – all friendly of course but my 4 year olds don’t know any better and they are Scared. Just yesterday, a BIG dog, again off leash at a schoolyard near our house, came bounding straight AT them (no one else in sight) to veer off at the last second. When I ask these dog owners to please leash their dogs they both respond that the dogs are friendly, mean no harm, that they are “under control” but they DO NOT put them on a leash. This is unfair and I am tired of it! How can I get my neighbors to comply without telling on them??

  • Sarah Hill

     uh… i meant comfortable with dogs, not jobs! – ha ha ha!

  • Pickett

    Maybe you should stop and introduce dogs to your child so he can get over his fear intsead of enabling him.  You may save him quite a bit of money in psychology bills down the line. 

  • Pickett

    Dog parks require a vehicle, which then requires you to use gasoline and pollute the environment.  Not everyone who owns a dog has a car and many that own dogs don’t want to waste gas driving to a dog park.  Spend a month at willard park and tell many how many dangerous interactions you see between people and dogs. 

  • Neighbor

    Bill, Read my post again.  You are oversimplifying things.  If there was a dog park nearby to take him to I’d do it…but there are no options.  Tax dollars are not funding enough dog parks to address the demand. You say, “Don’t ruin everyone elses time at the park.”????? Your drama doesn’t make a point with me.  It’s ridiculous.  Willard park functions fine whenever I’m there.  Sorry if my sweet puppy licked a child once or twice and made him laugh.  I’m sure it’s not perfect and you could pull together a case, but why not live and let live? 

  • Bill_Berkeley

    Call the Berkeley non emergency line anytime there is an off leash dog, 981-5900. They will send someone out. And tell the person to leash it, or they will get a ticket. 

  • Bill_Berkeley

    Um hello. Please read the comments from everyone else who does not want you to violate the leash laws. DOg parks can not be on every corner. Ohlone is centrally located. Take your dog for a run then to the off leash dog park, on a leash.

    It is not drama, it is the truth. “live and let live” is not having dogs run off leash around children. how about “live and hope my dog does not bite someone”.

    I hope you get a citation.

  • Bill_Berkeley

    Read the comments, a Person was bitten there within the last month. Then run your dog to the dog park. Tax dollars are already spent on Ohlone and Cesar chaves dog parks. Let your dog run off leash and have someone get bitten and your dog put to sleep, and see how you feel. Try thinking of your dogs’ welfare instead of your own selfish fetish for his “happiness.” 

  • Bill_Berkeley

    it is called using you legs to “walk” or “run” your dogs to the DOG park.

  • Cate

    Leash laws are like many other rules and regulations: they may seem unnecessary or inconvenient to responsible people to adhere to, but they protect the majority who are minding their own business from the irresponsible, the malicious, the ignorant, the crazies, and the just plain stupid.  As a dog afficionado, I have to remember that not everyone likes dogs and some people are afraid of or disgusted by them, or even allergic to them. Analogously, I’m glad that people are not allowed to bring their cats (to whom I’m allergic) to the local cafe and let them run around and walk on all the tables.  I have some horseback riding friends whose horses are terrified by both offleash dogs and bicyclists on trails around the Bay Area that are open to all three. This combination can present a serious danger, much like dog bites. In fact, I know of a tragic equine fatality and human injury that resulted from such an encounter on an Oakland trail.  Sadly, when one lives in a densely populated area, one has to put up with many regulations that might not be necessary in less crowded circumstances. 

  • Neighbor

    Perhaps someone should put a leash on you so you don’t bite.

  • Pickett

    Where in the bill of rights is that, Bill?    It is ridiculous to say that all dogs will bite people, therefore all dogs should be on leashes around people.  It is case by case.  Just because there are a couple of dog bites doesn’t mean we need to treat all dogs as potential threats.  That’s akin to treating all muslims as terrorists and making special restrictions for each muslim.  Anyways, why do human beings need special treatment at the expense of other species.  If anything, we should deter people from having kids, as people tax this planet much more than dogs do. But that is another argument, or maybe it isn’t.    

  • Pickett

    There were 88 fatalities caused by dogs during the three year span, 2006-2008.  Those same years, humans murdered over 50,000 people. And those numbers don’t include accidental deaths caused by humans.  I ask you, which species needs more restrictions imposed on them?

  • Glen

    My neighbor lets his entitled dog run free in our back yard.  We’ve asked him to keep his dog out of our yard for over a year, but the visits continue.  On top of depositing his business, the dog walks through the mud then tracks it all over our deck.  I don’t want to take it out on the innocent dog and despite the temptation I have avoided juvenile retaliation.  But I’m nearing the end of my rope.  Would love some ideas about how to proceed with this unresponsive neighbor.

  • Mibicycle

    Good solution: purchase a canister of dog mace available at your local bicycle shop. They say peace is assuming you are wrong and making concessions to avoid conflict. Pickett, your statement is a shining example of the stubborness that makes creates conflict as opposed to solutions. There is a clear solution which holds individuals responsible and you are proud to be against it. This is why my mace is coming out another time a dog jumps on me and muddys my wool sweater. 

  • LessTalkListenMore

    I can’t believe how many negative comments there are on both sides of the topic. Either non-dog owners are criticizing how dog owners are “irresponsible” and “entitled” for enjoying the specialness & fun of having a dog or the dog owners insensitivity towards non-dog owners simply not liking dogs & not wanting to step in pooh. The way I see it, we all have to share space. Like it or not, dogs are ingrained in the American life, $32.4 billion to be exact. The whole fear-mongering about dog attacks should not be used to influence banning un-leased activities at parks/open spaces. That only creates ignorance, fear and hate when we really need conversation promoting compromise & compassion for all creatures, with or without paws. 

  • CarolynS

    I am a responsible dog owner and always have my dog on leash except at places like Pt Isabel or the off-leash area at Cesar Chavez (yes, it is possible to figure out where it is). In fact he usually has a muzzle on, not because he’s aggressive but because he reacts badly when a stranger tries to pet him. I am really struck by how many people do not behave responsibly towards dogs and don’t teach their children appropriate behavior around dogs. At Pt Isabel, which is FULL of loose dogs, some people let their toddlers wander around 10 feet away from them – plenty of time for something bad to happen.  Or a kid will walk up and say “can I pet your dog” and not even wait for an answer before just going ahead. I have had perfect strangers walking the other way on the sidewalk who think it’s okay to just reach out and pet my dog without even asking.

  • 13ngleason

    Blame it on the fucking pit bull all the time.