Sequim Dog Parks
 

 

Safety issues and off-leash dog area

1. Is the park safe for my doggie?

2. Will the dogs get loose into other areas?

3. Will the dogs be dangerous?

4. Handling Incidents at the park?

5. What about poop?

6. Is the city liable?


Dog out of Control

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 solutions.

Bullet 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.
   
Bullet 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.
   
Bullet Will the dogs be dangerous?
 

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.

   
Bullet HANDLING INCIDENTS AT THE DOG PARK
  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 dispatched.

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
   
Bullet 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.
   
Bullet 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:

  1. 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).)
  2. Signage

    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.

  3. Insurance

    Purchase a commercial insurance policy specifically protecting the City from dog-related claims.


Website Last Updated: Tuesday, March 08, 2016


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