This poster, tacked to the side of the wooden screen around the porta-potties across from the hotel, tells a sad story. This owner’s dog, Rosie, suffered a severe injury, painful to the animal and to the owner’s wallet after veterinary treatment. The perpetrator was another, bigger dog, a German Shepherd, according to the poster.
The incident happened while the owner and Rosie were playing fetch “near the sun dial.” It so happens that the path up by the sun dial and the grassy area around it are a dogs-on-leash area. No dog is supposed to be off leash there. I’ve talked to a number of dog owners in that area who let their dogs run loose there. One of them admitted he knew it was against the Berkeley leash law to let his dogs run loose up there, but “I’ll take my chances.” Most of the owners I talked to claimed not to know that this was a leash area. It’s hard to prove that they were lying because in truth the signage is terrible. The few signs that once existed, already inadequate, have been pulled up or knocked over. Park management gets mildly aroused every few years and puts up ridiculously ineffective signage and then turns its back on the issue.
Unfenced dog parks are a menace to people, to wildlife, and to other dogs. Big dogs are a particular problem. The editor of the Point Isabel dog park newsletter was attacked and sent to the hospital by a big dog in that park, and the editor of The Bark was knocked down by another big dog. In Cesar Chavez Park we’ve seen a rabbit chewed up, a Burrowing Owl killed, and now a smaller dog injured by dogs whose owners can’t or won’t control them. The Comments section of this web site contains a report by another small dog owner of his pet being attacked by a big dog in the park here.
The problem of big dogs attacking smaller dogs is a well known and documented problem in dog culture. It’s one reason why the Ohlone Dog Park, the only other public park in Berkeley where dogs are allowed off leash, is getting an upgrade, including two separate fenced areas, one for small dogs, the other for large. When that’s finished, it should make for a safer and more agreeable dog experience for both four legged and two legged participants.
Berkeley certainly has lots of bigger problems — homelessness, housing, jobs, taxes, to name a few. But it’s not too early to give some thought to upgrading the dog environment in Cesar Chavez Park. An adequately sized fenced running area for big dogs, with a separate fenced area for smaller dogs, both located closer to parking and further away from wildlife areas, would be a win-win for dog lovers and dogs of all sizes, and for all the other creatures who call the park home or a pleasant place to visit.
I hope that the owner of the attacking Shepherd has seen the poster. It might be nice if they would offer to pay Rosie’s vet bill. But at least they could take steps to prevent this from happening again. The solution isn’t rocket science. It’s called use the leash.