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Councilman Seeks Havens From Leash Law : Wachs Proposes Dog Runs in Public Parks

April 12, 1985|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs proposed Thursday that the city build an unspecified number of dog runs in public parks, where dog owners could let their animals run free, exempt from the leash law.

There are nearly 200,000 licensed dogs in the city but not a single place for them to run loose legally, Wachs said.

Because there are no public dog runs, violation of the city's leash laws is rampant in city parks, Wachs said. A task force of the city Department of Animal Regulation has been citing 30 to 50 dog owners each weekend for leash-law violations, he said. Those cited must pay a $43 fine.

Motion Planned for Today

Wachs said he planned to introduce a motion to the City Council today asking the departments of Recreation and Parks and Animal Regulation and the city attorney's office to study jointly the possibility of creating "an appropriate number" of dog runs.

He said he did not know how many might be appropriate but expected one or two pilot parks might be built first. He added that he did not know whether dog runs should be built at existing parks or whether new parks should be opened specifically for dogs.

In the past, the Los Angeles city attorney has rejected the idea of free-run areas for dogs in city parks. A city attorney's opinion suggested that the city could be held liable for injuries caused by unleashed dogs on its property.

However, Wachs said his office has learned that other cities such as Palo Alto, Berkeley and Louisville, Ky., have established dog parks, apparently overcoming any liability problems.

Neighborhood Dispute

Wachs said he became aware of the acute demand for a dog park through a bitter neighborhood battle over the use of a park by dog owners in his East San Fernando Valley council district.

A group called ParkWatch, which consists mainly of dog owners, is protesting Wachs' plan to build a kiddie playground in four-acre Laurel Canyon Park at the summit of the Santa Monica Mountains above Studio City. ParkWatch members have contributed their own money to patrol and clean the park and contend that they have rescued the park from vandals and gangs. They use it extensively to run their dogs.

But many hillside residents have complained that the use of the park by dogs is preventing families and children from enjoying the park. They believe the dog owners oppose the playground because they don't want children using the park.

'Poisoned' Biscuits

Last month, the disagreement turned vindictive when someone, still not identified, spread dog biscuits through the park with flyers warning that the biscuits were laced with poison.

In a separate development Thursday, the Department of Animal Regulation announced that tests had turned up no poison in the biscuits.

Making his proposal at a press conference in the park Thursday morning, Wachs said he was not proposing Laurel Canyon Park as the site of one of the dog runs but promised to consider that eventuality should his proposal be accepted by City Council.

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