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Leash-Free Park Given Permanent Status : Pets: There is only one catch: The privilege will be withdrawn if owners don't faithfully clean up after their dogs.


The Los Angeles City Council has done its bit to let Rover be Rover.

By a unanimous vote, the Council agreed Friday to designate 4-acre Laurel Canyon Park as a permanent haven where dogs may run free, exempt from the city's leash law.

There was only one catch--dog owners were warned that the city would revoke their leash-free privileges at the small park if it became apparent that "standards for health and safety are not met"--that is, if dog owners do not faithfully clean up after their pets.

"It's great--it only took nine years, but we finally got it," groused Jane Purse, who presented the council with a petition that she said contained the signatures of 15,000 supporters of the Laurel Canyon dog park. Purse is also a founder of ParkWatch, a group of activist dog owners.

Since August, 1988, Laurel Canyon Park--on the south side of Mulholland Drive west of Laurel Canyon Boulevard--has operated as an experimental leash-free park for dogs, the only facility of its kind in Los Angeles. But the city has also kept dog-owners on tenterhooks by exempting the park area from the city's leash laws only for six months at a time.

Dog owners like Purse and Cathy Doyle, another ParkWatch leader, said dog owners deserved a stronger commitment from the city and demanded that the park's status be made permanent.

Strongly backing their demand Friday was Councilman Mike Woo, who represents the Laurel Canyon area. "The time is past for experiments. It's now time to make the status permanent," Woo said.

Woo's office had earlier agreed to a compromise plan backed by Councilman Joel Wachs that would have required the park's leash-free status to be renewed by the city annually.

Wachs had said that his concern was that if permanent dog-park status were granted, dog owners would grow lax about keeping the park free of litter and dog feces and discontinue their funding for park ranger patrols on weekends. But Purse pledged that ParkWatch would continue to press cleanliness rules upon dog owners and pay for the ranger, and by Friday, Woo had swung Wachs around to his view that the park ought to be a leash-free zone unless it becomes a problem.

ParkWatch leaders said their next goal is to win council approval for similar dog parks in other areas of the city.

Wachs said the best way to assure that Laurel Canyon Park does not become a nuisance because of a glut of dog owners converging on it is for the city to establish other dog parks.

Wachs cited a recent study that said $100,000 would be enough to set up four similar facilities.

Dogs can run free at Laurel Canyon Park from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to sundown daily.

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