The Juneau Parks and Recreation Department is re-creating a dog task force to address increasing complaints about dog poop and the behavior of some off-leash dogs.
The group meets Wednesday at the request of the city manager, after citizens took their complaints to the Juneau Assembly last week.
Rosemarie Alexander has more:
Ah, spring in Juneau – the snow is gone, crocuses are up, the grass is beginning to green – and it’s covered with a winter’s worth of litter.
If you head to a local trail or park, you’re sure to find other dregs of winter:
“I counted 108 piles of dog poop,” Julie Coghill told the Assembly about an hour after her walk on the Airport Dike Trail. Coghill and others came with complaints about unleashed dogs that harass people and wildlife, and their owners who don’t pick up after them.
“Dog waste is raw sewage,” said Carla Hart, a member of the 2003 Dog Task Force formed then to address growing concerns about off-leash dogs and mounds of fecal matter.
“Voluntary compliance was to be the answer,” she reminded the Assembly. “I think the proof is voluntary compliance hasn’t been enough.”
Complaints about dog poop always increase this time of year, says CBJ Director of Animal Control and Protection Matthew Musslewhite. He says dog waste is a problem for people, wildlife, and the Mendenhall wetlands.
“That whole watershed is a very, very complex ecosystem,” he said. “All that rain water comes off those trails carrying all that fecal matter with it and down into that system and it’s quite a bit of raw sewage that has definite impacts.”
Musslewhite is one of three officers charged with enforcing all CBJ dog laws, including licensing. He estimates that only about 25 percent of Juneau dogs, or about 4,000, are licensed each year. City code requires dogs over the age of 6 months be licensed by January 1st.
Dog Task Force Recreated
At the direction of City Manager Kim Kiefer, Parks and Landscape Superintendent George Schaaf is bringing together the same groups that were part of the 2003 dog task force, including federal and state land managers and enforcement officers as well as the Humane Society, Animal Control, Trail Mix, Juneau Audubon, and Grateful Dogs of Juneau.
For example, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Mendenhall Campground, and the Forest Service has enforcement officers, but do they cover canine behavior?
“That’s actually one of the reasons I’m looking forward to having both (CBJ) Animal Control and the Forest Service in the room together, so they can talk to one another and see where their worlds overlap,” Schaaf said.
He said the re-constituted dog task force will review current laws and enforcement problems, and some of the confusion surrounding those laws as well as off and on-leash areas.
Physical leashes are required in several places.
“The Auke Lake trail, the paved portions of the Twin Lakes pathway, and also the paved portions of the Brotherhood Bridge trail,” Schaaf said. “And then there are also seasonal leash regulations for Sandy Beach and Savviko Park.”
Nine years ago, Kiefer – then director of CBJ Parks and Recreation – was head of the dog task force. She says the main work has been done and new group doesn’t need to rewrite Juneau’s dog laws.
But some may need tweaking, she said, including “competent voice control.” City code requires dogs in parks be on leash or under their handler’s voice control. Kiefer said CBJ Animal Control officers tell her competent voice control is hard to enforce.
“So we need to look at that piece and figure out is there a way to make a check list that works for them, so that if a dog is off leash and somebody says it’s under competent voice control, there’s some sort of test they can do to see if it is,” she said.
Grateful Dogs of Juneau spends a lot of time in the spring cleaning up after others’ canines. The group also helps restock bag dispensers in parks and at trail heads, and encourages Parks and Rec to install trash cans where they’re needed.
Grateful Dogs’ George Utermohle believes Juneau is a great place to be a dog and a dog owner. He said most people are responsible, but those who don’t train their dogs or clean up after them create problems for responsible dog owners.
“We’d hate to see the community come down hard on dog owners in general because of what this small portion of citizens in the community are doing,” he said.
Utermohle said education is the solution, whether that comes in the form of peer pressure, advertising campaigns, or a ticket from an animal control officer.
Schaaf said the task force will develop a public outreach campaign to educate dog owners about regulations in parks and on trails.
On-leash only areas (Source: CBJ Animal control)
Downtown business district (Franklin Street to Main Street; Fifth Street to Mill Way)
Grounds of the State Office Building, Centennial Hall, State Museum, Governor’s Mansion, Juneau Airport.
All public school grounds
All docks, harbors, and wharfs
Twin Lakes paved pathway, shelter, playground, and grassy knoll
Auke Lake trail, Brotherhood Bridge trail (Kaxdigoowu heen dei) and Rainforest trail. (Rainforest is on leash only from May through September)
Savikko Park shelters, playground, and parking areas
Most Juneau parks are on-leash only, but parks with ball fields have signs indicating times the ball fields are open for canine exercise.
Areas closed to dogs at all times
Cemeteries, Salmon Creek watershed, Juneau Police station pond, Jensen/Olson Arboretum, East Pond trail at Fish creek, all artificial turf fields, all highways.
In all other areas, canines are required to restrained by means of physical restraint (a leash 10 feet in length or less), or by means of competent voice control.
Competent voice control requirements are met when:
1. The person exhibiting the voice control is present with the animal and monitors all of its activities.
2. The person exhibiting the voice control is capable of directing all of the animal’s movements and activities by voice commands.
3. The animal under voice control follows all of the vocal commands quickly and accurately.