Hundreds of dog owners marched on Saturday in protest of the National Park Service near-final dog ruling, limiting dog walking in San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Back in February this year, the National Park Service released the near-final dog ruling, which would effectively limit the walking of dogs off leash in the recreation area by up to 90 percent, with on-leash dog walking limited by up to 45 percent.
According to park officials, the plan is necessary to balance the needs of different park users, to protect wildlife and to make the park safer, but dog owners disagree and are up in arms about the new ruling.
The Mighty Mutt March in San Francisco today! Organized by Save Off-Leash Dog Walking Areas in the SF Bay Area…. https://t.co/8r4Y7AAraY
— South Loop Dog PAC (@sldogpac) April 24, 2016
As reported by CBS Local, Saturday saw around 1,000 dog owners with their canine friends of varying breeds, marching in protest through San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), with many wearing red bandanas and capes, in what was dubbed the “Mighty Mutt March.”
As the protesters walked along the bay-side stretch of the Presidio on Saturday with their four-legged friends, many were holding signs reading, “Unleash Our Land!” and “Put Feds On A Leash!” The protesters stretched out along a mile long area of Crissy Field.
According to Laura Pandapas, who lives near Muir Beach in Marin, she walks her standard poodle, Shugie, there every day. Pandapas said if the new ruling goes through, she would be forced to either use a 6-foot leash on her pet or would have to drive her canine pal to a beach further away, with rougher surf.
Pandapas told the San Francisco Chronicle that the protest march was a much-needed opportunity for dog owners to come together to oppose the new rules, saying, “We’ve all felt pretty isolated trying to fight this in our individual houses.”
Dog lovers unite at the Mighty Mutt March in San Francisco
— (@Nam_myoho_law) April 24, 2016
One of the event organizers was Andrea Buffa, a member of the advocacy group Save Our Recreation. Buffa said the dog owners are calling on the National Park Service to continue allowing dog walking in the open-space areas where it has been allowed for decades.
The areas in question reportedly include Ft. Funston and Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Muir Beach in Marin County, and Rancho Corral de Tierra on the Peninsula.
Buffa said, “We are undaunted and more determined than ever after years of seeking a balanced plan. If the Park Service thinks we’re going to just roll over and play dead, they have another thing coming.”
— Marin County DOG (@marincountydog) April 23, 2016
Amy Poon of Save Our Recreation said, “People have been walking their dogs in these areas, you know, the last 70, 100 years like this and suddenly they want to cut it now.”
Poon said the dog owners feel like they should be allowed to share the area, as they are only occupying less than one percent of the GGNRA, adding, “In 99 percent of the areas dogs really aren’t allowed.”
Dog owner Huey Johnson said local officials just don’t understand cities, adding, “They really ought to be someplace else and let the state Park Agency or somebody else run it.”
Scott Weiner of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors said they are “just wrong on this issue” and that the dramatic restrictions and reductions to dog access will have a profound impact on dog owners. Weiner said this “makes the city go backwards” and seem like an inhospitable place to be, adding, “Why would you want to live some place that doesn’t like dogs?”