Crazy Laws

Don't shoot me, bro!

Did you know that in California, it’s against the law for a woman to drive in a housecoat? You’re also prohibited from shooting any sort of wild game from a moving car — unless it’s a whale. In San Francisco, “persons classified as ‘ugly’ may not walk down any street.” There are lots of silly or antiquated laws still on the books all across the country.

We’re no different here in Oakland. Almost every park in our lovely city is off-limits to dogs and their owners — even if that dog is on a leash. People up in the Oakland hills have some respite, since they have the lovely off-leash area in Joaquin Miller Park. ODOG worked tirelessly to build it six years ago. It’s been a big hit with the neighbors. Initially, the Woodminster Theater adjacent to the off leash area was worried it would smell and wouldn’t be properly maintained. But, last March Harriet Schlader, the director of shows at Woodminster sent an unsolicited letter of praise to ODOG for how “clean” and “odorless” it’s been.

If you live near Lake Merritt you’re somewhat out of luck, and probably unknowingly breaking the law (much like those aesthetically-challenged folks across the bay). You most likely enjoy walking with your family and your dog near the lake and/or in some of our beautiful parks. Who wouldn’t? Walking a dog in a park is a natural occurrence that happens millions of times a day all across the globe. It knows no racial, age, religious or socio-economic barrier. But, people can (and sometimes do) get ticketed when paws touch grass in Oakland.

ODOG has worked with city planners and politicians for years to identify a suitable space for dog owners in the area to legally exercise their dogs and socialize with other people. Initially, Splash Pad Park was identified as the place. But, a separate proposal to put a Farmer’s Market there won out. (Incidentally, some neighbors fought the Farmer’s Market with almost as much veracity as they’re now fighting this proposal; and by all measures the market is an unqualified success).

Save Astro Park "fake out stake out"

Screen shot of the opposition’s Facebook page showing their recent “stake out" of the proposed site. Sports are clearly being played, despite their claim that the half of the field to be left unchanged is “unusable.” Also notice the patchy yellowish color of the grass. Click to Enlarge

Now a decade later and after literally dozens of public forums, Lakeview Park has been found to be the only spot anywhere around that an off leash area would be even remotely possible. And, why not? Sports will still be able to be played there despite what our opposition claims (see picture in sidebar). The tot lot will remain untouched, and is over 25 feet away.

This spot we’re asking for is less than one half of one percent of the parkland in the area. It would be space where we won’t be forced to break the law. And, for those that don’t want dogs in the other 154.5 acres of park for whatever reason, a study by the University of California, Davis confirms the obvious: “The establishment of a well-maintained and responsibly-used dog park may actually improve the value of some neighborhoods. Another benefit for a well-located park, according to park managers, is that the availability of an off-leash park reduced the tendency for people to allow their dogs off-leash in areas where it is not legal.” This proposed off leash area is a win-win all around.

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Posted on September 17, 2011, in Bird sanctuary, children, Community, Leash Laws, Public Meetings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Amy Lee Hammack

    I read your great article in defense of establishing a local dog park in the Lake Merritt area. I don’t live in Oakland, but understand this challenge. Has your organization considered doing an online
    petition? I’ve seen this work for other causes, such as the recent Occupy Wall Street threat of
    removing protesters from New York’s Zuccotti Park. An online petition was sent via e-mail to all who
    are members of an organization, Progressive Action. 300,000 signatures were delivered to Mayor Bloomberg within 24 hours. This and a flood of phone calls to the Mayor’s office added a significant impact to the city “backing down” from the plan to remove the protesters. The petition drive and phone calls were ad ynamic and powerful method of promoting the citizens interests.

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