HAYWARD -- After a woman's complaints that her dogs can't legally run free in an area park, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District is reviewing its ban on off-leash dogs.
The current rules do not allow her to enjoy East Avenue Park in unincorporated Hayward, Fairview resident Donna Fletcher told park district directors on Monday. Because dog regulations were not on the agenda, directors by law could not comment on the proposal. However, board President Lou Andrade referred the matter to a committee for study.
Dogs are only allowed off-leash in HARD's four dog parks, according to district general manager John Gouveia. Neither Alameda County or the city of Hayward city have ordinances that allow dogs to be off leash.
Fletcher does not want a dog park at East Avenue. She said Wednesday that the only time her dog was attacked was at a dog park, and she maintained that pet owners often do not pay attention to their animals at such parks.
East Avenue Park neighborhood dog owners are responsible, she said. "We clean up after our dogs, we control them, we encourage our pets to socialize with other dogs," she said in a written statement that she read to the board.
HARD has received numerous complaints about canines running loose in East Avenue Park, according to Karl Zabel, parks operations and development supervisor. He said parents have called about fights between dogs in the playground area. "One time, a dog attacked a patron," he said. In addition, children playing in the open areas have been bothered by dogs.
The 30-acre park is a staging area for nearby trails, and both bicyclists and horseback riders have complained about dogs. Problems also have occurred with dogs off-leash near summer day camps, Zabel said.
HARD rangers gave more than 20,000 warnings and issued 928 tickets in 2012, he said. Of those, 21 were for dogs not on leash; that number includes all of the district's parks, not just East Avenue. Zabel did not have exact figures for that park but said the number is a "very, very small percentage of all the citations we issue."
Fletcher said Wednesday she usually visits the park twice a day and lets her dogs run off leash.
"I've been going to that park for 14 years. We have a whole group of friends who let our dogs off leash when the rangers aren't around, and I've never had an issue," Fletcher said. Although she has been ticketed many times over the years, she said she had not received a ticket for eight years until 2012, when she and her husband were both cited once each.
"There seems to be no give and take. Much of time we're the only people in park," she said Wednesday.
Fletcher agreed that pet owners who let their dogs run without supervision should be cited. She said she has even called the district about aggressive dogs running loose in the playground area.
She urged the board to consider allowing dogs to run at large under the control of the owner or handler within designated areas away from the parking lot and playground. The owner would be required to have a leash for each dog and uncontrolled dogs would have to remain on leash.
Fletcher said she used East Bay Regional Park District off-leash regulations as a guideline for her suggestions. Dogs are allowed off-leash in open space and undeveloped areas of EBRPD parks. They must be on leashes on developed areas, lawns, turf areas, play fields and picnic areas.