Proposal would allow dogs to roam free in Cal Anderson Park

Dog parks inspire a special kind of divisiveness within Seattle’s civic skirmishes. With limited public park space, opponents of expanding off-leash areas say human activities should get top priority in park planning. Off-leash supporters say their interests deserve equal consideration.

Nevertheless, dogs are here to stay and Seattle Parks and Recreation is working on a plan to determine how best to accommodate them. Seattle’s canine population has reached an estimated 150,000 with no signs of slowing. The city is now reviewing its 19-year-old policy governing dog parks and considering some new ideas, including adding unfenced, off-leash areas inside public parks.

The idea is backed by Citizens for Off-Leash Areas, who say parks like Cal Anderson could implement the policy already working in other cities. “Dog owners are being pushed into scofflaws because they don’t have options,” said COLA executive director Cole Eckerman.

According to Eckerman, allowing dogs to be off-leash during certain times of the day at certain parks could reduce dog bites by increasing opportunities for exercise, create legal solutions to accommodate the city’s growing dog population, and yes, even deter nighttime crime. Eckerman also said allowing “multi-use” dog areas is an equity issue as many lower income neighborhoods lack traditional off-leash areas.

Portland has 24 unfenced, off-leash areas which are restricted to certain areas and times — a model COLA says could be replicated in Seattle. Typically, new dog parks are first piloted by the parks department and then approved by the City Council. Dewey Potter, the parks department’s unofficial off-leash expert, said a similar process would likely be used if the city decides to move ahead with unfenced dog areas. It’s unclear how many dog parks or off-leash areas Seattle could add in the near future, Potter said.

Seattle currently has 28 acres of fenced off-leash areas spread across 14 parks, including around Capitol Hill at Plymouth Pillars Park and the I-5 Colonnade. City policy recommends placing new dog parks away from playgrounds or adjacent to residential properties, which could be difficult to maintain if the city allows dogs to roam in unfenced areas.

Some of those criteria were actually developed in response to Seattle’s early experiments with off leash areas on Capitol Hill. In the late 1990s the parks department piloted two dog parks in Volunteer Park. One was scrapped because it was too muddy while the other received too many complaints from nearby homeowners.

The city’s dog parks report will not include any specific site recommendations, Potter said, but it will offer some suggestions for how to better accommodate dog owners as demand for all types of park space continues to grow.

Other recommendations include how to improve existing dog parks. The parks department plans to release its report June 11th at a date to be determined.

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45 thoughts on “Proposal would allow dogs to roam free in Cal Anderson Park

  1. Anyone know if there’s a better POC than the general feedback system on the Seattle Parks & Rec site for this?

    Leash laws don’t seem to be a deterrent for dog owners letting them off leash, so why bother changing it (since no one enforces any dog policies anyways), unless it’ll decrease the amount of dog sh*t scattered throughout the park.

  2. A major consideration in closing down one of the Volunteer Park sites was that the dog urine was killing the sequoias.
    Also, the smell in the summer was pretty rank, just heat, dog piss and not much rain. It would have been hard to live across from that…..

    • Ken Bounds didn’t want the off leash area in Volunteer park from day 1. The issues with the sequoia was an oil spill from a lawn mower, not dog urine. It’s Ok if you don’t think it’s a good idea to have off leash dogs in Cal Anderson Park but lets not dredge up old misinformation.

    • I am tired of the dog people using these misleading comparisons to make their point. Portland has more than twice as much parkland than Seattle, for fewer people. Of course they can have more dog parks—they have more land! Vancouver has huge parks, including 2000+-acre Pacific Spirit Park and 1000-acre Stanley Park. (Compare that to Seattle’s largest park at 500+ acres.) Plus, they have hefty fines for offleash.

    • So to your point, Denise, Seattle is underserved in the amount of dog park space it has available. Dog parks require little space (a quarter to 1 acre) so the amount of total park space is somewhat irrelevant. We should be looking at population vs available dog park space which means Seattle is way behind.

    • Of course it matters how much parkland we have in the city! Especially when a specialized-user group of people wants it for high-impact use such as off-leash. Why do people continue to expect they can have as many dogs as they want in a dense city like Seattle and demand that everyone else give up parkland to accommodate them? And please do not compare dogs to children. It is not society’s responsibility to support dogs as we do kids!

    • With that logic we shouldn’t have sports courts in parks because they cater to limited user groups lol. We pay taxes and should have amenities – like sports courts and dog parks – that improve the quality of our lives.

    • But the city’s ability to provide parkland for specialized recreation is limited by available space—whether it is sport courts or dog parks. My original point. The parks system provides space for people to recreate with their dogs. But it is not the public’s responsibility to provide pet-care needs for an unlimited number of dogs. That is simply not sustainable. How about the private sector providing dog parks?

  3. URGH–no, please don’t unleash dogs in Cal Anderson. At least not in the whole park! Maybe fence off part of it for a dog park. I’m scared of dogs and generally don’t like them (or their often entitled owners) and want to feel safe walking through the park.

    • Off leash areas are usually fenced off, under used sections of a park so you can keep your distance. Don’t expect to see an entire park the scale of Cal Anderson to be fully off leash.

    • Timmy73 – the article is about adding off-leash areas that are NOT fenced.

      I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think that a fenceless off-leash area could be beneficial – but at the same time, people are already letting their dogs off leash in parks and I’ve yet to see anyone get a ticket for it, so what is the problem being solved?

      Add in that some people will be alienated from using the park at all (like Lee), and I would not support this for Cal Anderson Park. I think it would be more appropriate for Volunteer Park, where there are some natural boundaries separating out areas.

      OTOH, the city does need many more off-leash areas!

    • Thanks, genevieve. Understood this is about unfenced off-leash dog parks. But I doubt this proposal would pass, especially in a dense area like Cal Anderson.

      I think we’d most likely see a fenced off section as a compromise. At least that would be my hope. I sometimes let my dog loose in Volunteer Park. I’d never consider doing so in Cal Anderson. The risks there are too great.

    • There’s already plenty of off leash dogs in Cal Andersen, I walk through regularly and couldn’t actually tell you the last time I didn’t see one. As for the fence issue, the unfenced areas tend to have MUCH better behaved dogs than the fenced ones, which are usually full of people who can’t be bothered to train their dogs and so have no voice control over them, hence the need for a fence.

    • I’m with you, Lee. Unleashed dogs, particularly running in a pack, make me feel unsafe. Cal Anderson is a very active park in a dense neighborhood, so allocating precious park space to this use should not be a top priority.

      It’s now against city code to smoke in the park, but allowing potentially aggressive dogs to roam a busy park without leashes doesn’t represent a more clear and present health and safety risk? Um, ok. Right. Makes sense!

  4. This is sorely needed. People let their dogs off leash anyways which increases risks to them and others. This will at least contain them and reduce risk to everyone.

    I was disappointed in the closing of the Volunteer Park off leash closure. The park is huge and an area away from trees could have been used and sprinklers can mitigate the build up of urine. Easy problems to solve.

    • There are currently only two animal control officers in Seattle. As a dog owner I’d love to see more as we’ve frequently been attacked by escaped dogs in the CD, but good luck raising taxes to pay for it.

  5. What is it about dense urban neighborhoods that make people want to have high-maintenance pets? No to unleashed dogs!

  6. I think an off leash area at Cal Anderson is great….as long as it is fenced!
    I love dogs, probably more than most people. In fact it’s been said I am obsessed with dogs. That is why I adopted a dog that was going to be put to sleep because his “problems”. He was abused for years before I got him. So he was never socialized with dogs, loved people, but I could not trust him around all dogs. I spent 10 years avoiding other dogs when I took him on walks. And I always hated it when I had to ask people to leash their dogs and they would say “don’t worry he/she is friendly”…well my dog was not.
    So I agreed a fenced area for free dog run would be great. That might help people be responsible pet owners and not let their animals run free.
    Also I worry about the summer and the influx of traveler kids with their animals. There are SO many of them at Cal Anderson in the summer and I worry about the dogs running around off leash.

    • If I felt a muzzle would have corrected the situation I would have used one. I tried it and it just stressed him out more. The dog suffered five years of neglect and abuse before me, I wanted to give him a better life.

      I tried everything for this dog…medication, DAP, thunder vest, training, massage He had a good life for the ten years I had him. I got it to where he would feel comfortable walking down the street with his best doggie friend.

      But if a dog ran up and rushed him, even in a friendly way, there could be an altercation. And as he got older and started to go blind his doggie friend was also very protective. And she loved all dogs and was so sweet, but she took care of the old guy and was there to help him.

      I did everything I could possible do. Is it too much to ask for others to leash their dog in the city?

  7. I think a few of people in the comments missed that they aren’t planning to fence off a subset of Cal Anderson and make it a dog section. There don’t seem to be plans to put up a fence at all. This article reads like they are just going to declare Cal Anderson an off-leash area. This is idiotic on many levels.

    1) There’s no surrounding fence to the park in general so there is nothing to stop a dog from running into the heavy traffic around the park. Say your dog is super well trained all you want but you’re one overthrown ball away from your dog getting run over
    2) Even if they claim that only part of the park is off-leash safe, I guarantee that won’t work. It’s easy to keep a well trained dog near you when there is limited distraction. When there lots of dogs all running and playing there is no way they are all going to stay with their owners.
    3) Hate to be honest but most of the dogs that belong to the homeless population squatting in that park are pretty aggressive. I typically avoid walking my dog through there because the homeless dogs try to go after him once we’re within 10 yards. The only thing that has saved us is that they are at least normally on a leash.
    3) Put the money towards maintaining and policing the dog park at Mercer and Pine instead. It is serving the same area and has potential to be great. However, I stopped going to that one because the homeless population started coming in and out of there to use the water fountain and to pee/poop. I don’t even have a problem with them doing that. What I do have a problem with is that they leave the gates open every time and dogs have run out into traffic

    All this dumb plan says to me is that they are throwing up their hands and just want to get out of policing an easy problem

    • Don’t you mean Melrose & Pine? Mercer and Pine are parallel.

      I agree, when I had a dog, I took her to that park, and she just stood around mostly. She didn’t the rocks. The off-leash park under the freeway at N. Capitol Hill is even worse.

  8. Now we can all run with/get chased by the pitbulls in Cal Anderson Park. Great.

    Fenced area would be fine-unfenced a potential disaster.

    Even though it is close to where I live I avoid that park. While it was beautiful when it was first done it has deteriorated in to a lawless shithole. Gross. Sad really.

    Instead we walk our (little) dog in Volunteer Park on his leash. Way better experience for him and for us. Occasionally he will meet an off leash dog but they don’t try to eat him!

    we should ask “Ollie” for his opinion.

  9. Save our parks for humans! I understand there’s a desire to let a dog run free, but there are options available nearby. Dogs are a luxury, not a right.

  10. I’m not sure how I feel about the unfenced part. That said: to everyone saying “there are already off-leash dogs in the park, so there’s no need to do anything” — please remember that some (many) dog owners are law-abiding. Just because some are willing to break the law does not mean that the rest of us are – more official dog parks, whether fenced or unfenced, would save many of us time and effort. As with any other group of people, don’t let the bad apples who you notice spoil your impression of everyone else who you don’t because their good behavior causes them to be invisible to you.

  11. I see that the non-dog owners can just avoid the park or change sides of the street from the uncontrolled dog. Nice.

  12. Sheesh. Unless it has changed a great deal since the last time I walked through there, Cal Anderson isn’t safe for people, nevermind pets. I don’t want my dog getting stuck by some carelessly discarded needle or snacking on the spent remains of the concentrated chemicals in whatever has been smoked in that place. Mind you, I would far prefer to meet up with friendly dogs than some of the wasted people who frequent that place but no; I wouldn’t take my dog there regardless of whether or not it was off-leash.

  13. Cal Anderson Park is frequented by families, and having just last week had a couple’s “friendly dog” run over and eat some of our picnic dinner, an entire off-leash park is simply not a good idea. I’ve seen some less than healthy interactions between children and off-leash dogs. I don’t have an issue with introducing a fence-off dog area, but the priority of use should be for people.

  14. This is a dumb idea. To have an off-leash, unfenced area of the park “at certain times” is totally unenforceable. Do you really think irresponsible dog owners are going to respect the time and space limits? I don’t think so.

    • They don’t respect the leash laws now, or the pick up your crap laws, or signs in business that say ‘service animals only’ (check out the QFC for a prime example), etc. They do what they want.

  15. Agree with the above comments, that Volunteer Park is already an off leash area, albeit informally. And so is the park at 16th and Howell. The dog owners who are irresponsible and believe that the leash law does not include their dog, will not change.
    i wont go to QFC anymore because of all the non working dogs that are brought in there. The same goes for Trader joes. Without enforcement of the current laws,it is a waste of money and paper to print any new ones.

    • I used to always provide feedback about the veritable dog pound that both QFC stores on Broadway are. What I noticed was the ‘service animals only’ signs appeared and were placed prominently near the exit.

      One evening recently, as I was leaving and someone’s most-likely-non-service-animal ran across the store I said to an employee by the door “Aren’t those not supposed to be in here?” and he said “We’re actually forbidden to say anything to them or even ask!”

      What’s the point… service animals should have a LEGIT certification or collar – not one you can pay someone $20 on the internet to say you need a friggen Great Dane for emotional support.

    • My understanding is that it’s untrue that staff cannot ask a person to confirm that their pet is a legitimate service animal. Under the ADA, they can be asked two questions….don’t remember exactly what those are, but one of them is along the lines of “What service does your pet do for you?” Maybe someone else here can provide more specific information on this point.

      But I suspect it is true that some businesses, such as QFC, forbid their employees from confronting a customer on this issue, because they fear creating a scene. Management takes the easy way out, and as a result such stores are inundated with non-service animals.

  16. When it comes to dogs and dog parks, I’m such a YIMBY. (Well… actually I’m a YIMBY about everything except nail salons and tattoo parlors. They’re a scourge!)

  17. Unleashed dogs are a great danger to people, especially to children and the elderly. They also attack and kill wildlife and smaller dogs and cats. I’ve been bitten and had the dog held for rabies checking. it was NOT fun. Already, I regularly run across dogs running loose and their human owners telling me ” it never bites anyone “. yeah, right. The existing laws controlling dogs running loose should be enforced, not reduced !