Safety issues and
off-leash dog area
There are a
number of potential safety concerns surrounding the establishment of
off-leash areas for dogs in our community. This page attempts to
address the most common safety concerns as well as try to suggest
Will the dog park
be safe for my dog?
||The intent of off-leash privileges is to provide free running
areas for dogs that are "under control." There are no perfect
solutions to prevent accidents for adult recreational users or dogs.
Rules will be in place to prevent aggressive dogs or dogs that play
so rough as to threaten the safety of other dogs.
Will the dogs get loose
in other areas of the park?
||Children's playground areas must remain dog free. Picnic
areas must remain "dogs on leash only." WE support
additional signage and enforcement of these stipulations.
Beyond this, conflicting use of recreational areas has not
been a significant problem in the past; nor should it be in
the future - responsible dog owners are vigilant about
potential conflicts and use common sense in this regard.
Will the dogs be
Dog attacks are the most serious potential problem and
there is always a great deal of interest in the issue.
- Though attacks can occur against humans, other dogs,
and other animals, most dogs don't bite people or other
dogs (Domestic Dog, 1995; Canine Behavior, 1965).
- Dog attacks are more likely to occur in the dog
owner's home or immediate vicinity than they are in
public open space. In one study of aggression in dogs it
was found that from 65% to 93% of dog
attacks occurred in or near the dog owner's home (Poderbercek
& Blackshaw, 1990).
- According to the Journal of the American Medical
Association (January 22, 1997), the vast
majority of dog bites occur on a dog's territory. When
dogs bite people who are off the dog's property, it is
usually the result of a lack of supervision or ignorance
on the part of the owner. Attacks that occur on private
property typically happen when a dominant, protective,
or injured dog is not adequately supervised. These
triggers are not present when a dog is in the neutral
territory of a public park.
Without wanting to underrate the seriousness of dog
attacks in either the private home or public open space,
they need to be kept in perspective.
HANDLING INCIDENTS AT THE DOG
||The Sequim Dog Park is self-policing, and it is expected
that people act like adults, follow the rules, and be
respectful towards each other. Rules are posted by the main
entrance and in the large dog area. Unfortunately,
occasionally there are some people who enjoy being scofflaws
and abusive towards others.
Incidents may include a blatant disregard for the Sequim Dog
Park rules, true aggressiveness from a dog and the owner
does nothing, dogs off leash outside the Sequim Dog Park
fenced boundaries, or a person being belligerent towards
other dog park users.
Lisa Hopper, Code Compliance & Animal Control Officer for
the City of Sequim recommends the following:
1. If you are having a problem with a person who is
escalating, and there is a concern for public safety of all
parties involved, you are encouraged to call the Sequim
Police Department non-emergency line at 360-683-7227.
2. Dogs are to be on a leash at all times, unless within the
dog park. You can call Lisa Hopper's office number
360-683-4908, but if she is out of the office she will not
get the message until she returns. Again, during this time
call the police non-emergency line and she can be
3. When inside the dog park area, you are there at your own
risk. If a dog fight occurs within the enclosed area and
injuries are sustained to animals, the animal initiating the
situation will NOT be declared as a potentially dangerous or
dangerous dog. When there is a dog inside the dog park being
aggressive hopefully the owner will figure out their dog is
having a bad day and leave, unfortunately not everyone does.
If the owner does not remove their dog, I encourage people
to exit the area with their dogs, and then when everyone is
safe outside the dog park enclosure, to call the
non-emergency police line for a response.
Again, here are the phone numbers Sequim Dog Park user
should have in their cells phones in case of emergencies.
Sequim Police Dept non-emergency line: 360-683-7227
Lisa Hopper, Code Compliance & Animal Control: 360-683-4908
And don't forget your personal veterinarian's number.
If you have further questions feel free to contact Lisa
Hopper at 360-683-4908 or email her at ihop...@sequimwa.gov
||What about the poop?
||Dog feces can be unsightly and even a health hazard.
However, it must be recognized that dogs defecate whether or
not they are on a leash. A dog park will actually decrease
the amount of feces left in other park areas by confining a
great deal of dog activity to a well supervised zone.
Is the City liable?
The City is legitimately concerned that legalizing the
use of public property for off-leash recreation creates the
risk of public liability. The experience of other
municipalities indicates, however, that the risk is minimal.
For example, the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline is a 21
acre, off-leash park located at the border of the cities of
Berkeley and Richmond, California. According to the park
supervisor, the park averages 730,000 dog visitors each
year. The attorney for the East Bay Regional Park
District reports that the district has had no claims and has
not been named in any litigation regarding dogs during the
seven years he has been attorney for the agency.
Laguna Beach, California has had off-leash areas for over
two years with no claims. The Sepulveda Dam Basin, which is
the largest off-leash area in Los Angeles, also reports no
claims or litigation over dog incidents.
At least one reason for the lack of claims is legal: the
"dangerous condition" immunity from public liability
probably relieves the public agency of liability, especially
for the acts of third parties using the public property (Gov't.
Code section 830 et. seq.; Jones v. Czapkay (1960)
182 Cal.App.2d 192).
Nevertheless, the City should take precautions to protect
itself (and the taxpayers) from potential liability. There
are several ways to limit liability, including:
- Express assumption of liability and
indemnification by users of the off-leash areas
This can be accomplished by conditioning the issuance
of dog licenses on an express indemnification agreement,
or by a "permissive use" ordinance change. The city of
Claremont, California chose the latter approach. Its
off-leash ordinance states in part:
"The use of an off-leash area by a dog owner or
other person having care, custody, or control of
that shall constitute agreement by the dog owner and
the person having care, custody, or control of that
dog to... a waiver of liability of the city, and his
or her agreement to protect, indemnify, defend and
hold harmless the city from any claim, injury, or
damage arising from or in connection with such use."
(City of Claremont Ordinance 11.02.125(E).)
Full and complete signage, both advising visitors
that the park is an off-leash area and that they use the
area at their own risk, and advising dog owners of their
assumption of liability and hold harmless agreement.
Purchase a commercial insurance policy specifically
protecting the City from dog-related claims.
Website Last Updated:
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Photos at the park