Late last year the off-leash dog controversy came to a head with the December 15 meeting of the Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. Over a year ago, the Commission requested that County staff produce criteria for off-leash dog facilities and an inventory of County Parks properties suitable for fenced or unfenced off-leash dog parks.
The four Commissioners in attendance
on December 15 listened to the Parks Department Staff Report, which concluded “County
Parks does not recommend further consideration of unfenced shared use
areas where dogs would be permitted off-leash.”
the Staff Report, the meeting was opened to public comment on this
agenda item. Many comments from off-leash dog proponents were loud and
peppered with foul language, as they demanded that the Commission “give
them” an off-leash dog area on “their beach.” The F-word was heard as often as in a modern motion picture.
The atmosphere created by off-leash dog supporters turned ugly and
intimidating. Members of the audience expressing support for the Staff
Report were repeatedly interrupted by rude remarks. When the public
comment was closed and the Commissioners began their discussion, the
off-leash proponents continued their interruptions, moving forward
toward the Commissioners, waving and gesticulating, and taking pictures
with their cell phones. At times the gathering felt more like a
religious revival than a Commission meeting.
The process of
careful government deliberation was destroyed by the unruly behavior of
the off-leash proponents, replaced by an escalating mob atmosphere by those intent on getting their own way.
Unfortunately, the Commission Chair failed to control the abusive
outbursts, even beyond the public comment period and into the
Commissioners’ discussion that followed.
Even worse, two Parks Commissioners rewarded the off-leash proponents
and gave them legitimacy by taking their demands seriously and proposing
a motion to recommend that the Board of Supervisors look into a pilot
program for off-leash dogs on a County beach.
does this send to the public that looks to County Commissions to advise
their Board of Supervisors on County policy? Is abusive and bullying
behavior to be rewarded by obsiquious Commissioners? Is County policy to
be determined by those who shout the loudest with the most foul