UPDATE – Some people raised legitimate concerns about my post that I should address:
- Seattle dog owners should not run their dogs off-leash wherever they please.
- I don’t think people should walk their dogs around Seattle off-leash. Ever.
- Aggressive or unpredictable dogs should always be on-leash.
- We have 2 dogs. One of them is reactive so we never allow him off-leash where he would be a threat to other dogs. The dog I talk about in this post is a ball obsessed lab that focuses all her attention on chasing the ball and completely ignores other dogs. If she posed any threat to other dogs I would not allow her off-leash.
- The point of my post was not to encourage dog owners to protest against the city’s lack of open space by ignoring Seattle’s leash laws. I just wanted to show how the city’s lack of open space for dogs affects me and offer a solution (allowing dogs on some ball fields that are unused 8 months out of the year) that isn’t mention in the Parks Board long term plan for the city’s off-leash areas.
Thank you for all your comments.
Lack of Off-Leash Areas Leads Me to Violate Seattle’s Leash Law
That’s right, I’m guilty.
And it’s not the first time I’ve committed this crime.
The reason for my lawlessness? Seattle doesn’t have enough large off-leash areas.
We have a ball-obsessed Labrador Retriever (is there any other kind?) that needs lots of vigorous exercise several days a week to burn off energy and stay healthy. To play fetch she needs to have a large open area that gives her enough room to run.
Here are the legal options in/near my neighborhood if I want to take her to an off-leash area:
Kinnear Park Off-Leash Area
Extremely small – just .1 of an acre
No parking nearby during the week
Magnolia Manor Off-Leash Area
Extremely small – just .5 acres
Large section covered only with gravel, which is difficult for dogs to run on
Gets extremely crowded easily because it’s so small
Part of the interior of Golden Gardens is fenced off because it’s always wet and muddy, and Woodland Park has a giant hill in the middle of it that leaves a much smaller area where there is enough space for a game of fetch, especially if the park is crowded.
More importantly to me is that, assuming traffic isn’t too awful (which is a bad assumption in traffic-choked Seattle), I have to spend at least 30 minutes driving back and forth to these off-leash areas from my house.
So, if I want to play fetch with my dog, the easiest option is to go to a public baseball field about a mile from my house. Virtually no one uses it for 8 months out of the year.
When it’s used during baseball/softball season in the summer, no one is usually there until late afternoon. I often see other dog owners exercising their dogs as well.
The reason I break Seattle’s off-leash law is simple: The number of adequate off-leash areas has not kept up with the large influx of dog owners into the city.
For an estimated 150,000 dogs, Seattle has 25 acres of off-leash land in 14 parks. Seattle’s population has increased almost 18% since 2000. During this period Seattle increased its total OLA acreage by 2.3 acres, or about 10%.
Half of this land is found in a single inaccessible, underutilized OLA under I-5 (I-5 Colonnade). The other OLAs are extremely tiny like Kinnear Park and Magnolia Park.
Furthermore, a recently survey conducted by Citizens for Off-Leash Areas (COLA) found that the #1 reason non-OLA users in Seattle don’t use them is that they aren’t conveniently located. It also found that 48% said having an off-leash area close to home is the most important factor determining whether they would use it.
Over the last few months the Seattle Board of Parks Commissioners have worked on a Draft Master Plan “to identify a long term plan for Seattle’s off-leash areas (OLAs) as well as for the maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of OLA projects.”
No Specific Plans for New Off-Leash Areas
Unfortunately, the draft of the plan released last summer contained no specific plans to add more off-leash area to the city. Last week at a public meeting held by the Board, several dog owners expressed their frustration that the plan doesn’t include new off-leash areas.
Money and space restrictions were among the reasons the Board gave for not including new dog parks in the plan. But here’s what I don’t understand: Why won’t the Board allow off-leash dogs on Seattle’s ballfields that no one uses several months out of the year?
It would cost almost nothing. And it would give people immediate access to dozens of new areas where their dogs can go off-leash.
Wouldn’t this be an inexpensive, innovative way to give more space for off-leash dogs?
If the Board is hesitant to make a change, it could initiate a pilot program at one of the ballfields and see how it would works.
Why won’t the Board consider this option?
Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the county. Unless the Board comes up with some innovative solutions to our shortage of off-leash areas soon, this problem will continue to worsen, and many Seattle dog owners, including me, will continue to skirt Seattle’s leash law.
You can email comments about the plan to Rachel.Acosta@seattle.gov until October 14.
The Board will finalize the plan in December and submit it to the Seattle City Council in 2017.