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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scott Wiener Takes Up Cause of Anti-Leash Activists

Posted By on Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 3:20 PM

click to enlarge And so it begins
  • And so it begins

One of the more puzzling aspects of San Francisco politics is the bizarre level of conflict that arises with any discussion of dogs.

The prolonged internecine conflict between those who wish to run their dogs free and advocates of more restrictive leash laws has periodically convulsed the city. In a cover story last year, we predicted that an impending crackdown on off-leash dogs at the federal lands managed in San Francisco by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area could lead to renewed strife.

Consider that crackdown "impending" no longer. It's here, in the form of a new plan, released yesterday by National Park Service officials, that calls for extensively curtailing off-leash dogs in such popular areas as Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, and Fort Funston.

Negative reactions from off-leash dog activists have been swift, and it appears that San Francisco's local elected officials are jumping into the fray.

Supervisor Scott Wiener says he opposes the GGNRA plan, and is calling at today's Board of Supervisors meeting for the city's Recreation and Park Department to look into whether the restricted access to federal lands will affect city-owned parks -- which presumably could be inundated with displaced dog owners.

"The change that they're looking at [in the GGNRA] is extreme, and I don't support it," Wiener told SF Weekly.

It isn't the first time a politician has taken up the notoriously thorny Dog Issue. The last time federal officials suggested restricting off-leash access, about 10 years ago, then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom assured an enraged crowd of dog owners that he would seek to expel the Park Service from the San Francisco Peninsula if the proposal went through. (Really.)

But any pol who gets into this fight does so at his own risk. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu found himself embroiled at the end of 2009 in a hapless leash-law skirmish at Nob Hill's Huntington Park. Wiener acknowledges the combustibility of all matters dog-related, but says he is not deterred.

"It is definitely a difficult and thorny issue, and some people have advised me to stay away from it," he said. "But it's one of those issues that affects so many people, and we need to tackle it."

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Peter Jamison

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