More than 100 dog owners who want part of Laurel Canyon Park set aside as a leash-free area for their pets vowed last weekend to fight what they called the increasing police powers of the Los Angeles City Animal Regulation Department.
Jane Purse, leader of Park Watch, urged members meeting at the park Sunday to create a "massive infusion" of phone calls and letters to city officials to protest a continuing crackdown on leash laws at the park, and two proposed laws strengthening the department's jurisdiction over uncontrolled pets.
She said that the group's gathering of 5,000 signatures on petitions last year asking for the dog runs instigated a "most incredible program of harassment" by animal regulation officers.
Longtime Practice Cited
For 3 1/2 years, Purse said, dog owners brought their animals to the four-acre park in the Santa Monica Mountains above Studio City and let them run free.
She said the officers have cited hundreds of dog owners at the park during the last year despite an order by the Animal Regulation Commission in May, 1985, to halt a leash-law crackdown there. The citations carry a $46 fine.
Arthur Margolis, a member of the city Animal Regulation Commission, told members of the group that he is "shocked by the misuse of police power" on the part of animal regulation officers. For example, he said, the commission will consider a recommendation that barking dog complaints be handled at administrative hearings conducted by the Animal Regulation Department rather than prosecuted in the courts.
If allowed to become law, Margolis said, the recommendation will "allow the Department of Animal Regulation to become its own judge."
Second Proposal Reported
Park Watch member Cathy Doyle said a second proposed city ordinance contains a provision that allows the department to revoke the licenses of dogs whose owners receive numerous citations for violating leash laws. Owners then would have to move their pets to other cities or have them destroyed, she said.
The proposal by Robert Rush, department general manager, is in response to a pit bull's mauling of two Sylmar children last year. It is designed to banish dangerous and uncontrolled dogs from the city. But it could be extended to leash-law violators, Rush said.
Lt. Richard Falosky, one of two Animal Regulation Department officers monitoring the meeting, said as long as there is a law prohibiting unleashed animals on public property, "we're going to enforce it." He said he supports dog owners' rights to change the law.
However, Falosky said the department has had numerous complaints from other people using the park, including dogs knocking children down, dogs biting people and dogs fighting with each other. Unleashed dogs in a park can create hazards, Falosky said.
"We're here to protect animals as well as people," he said. "Common sense tells you that if you get strange animals together, they challenge each other."
Parents also have complained of dog droppings in a children's play area in one corner of the park, Falosky said.
A recommendation by the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Animal Regulation Commission to establish the city's first dog run at Laurel Canyon Park is awaiting consideration by the City Council.