The Carson City Board of Supervisors approved a new dog policy Thursday that sets where dogs are allowed in the city’s more than 8,000 acres of parks, trails and open space.
“Dogs are a very emotional topic to people,” said Carson City Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Budge, who presented the policy with Open Space Manager Lyndsey Boyer.
Boyer pointed out that city code regarding dogs in parks is outdated.
“We are allowing dogs in a good portion of our park system,” she said of the new policy.
City code previously prohibited dogs in all city parks unless areas were specifically exempted. The new policy – established by a resolution – sets places dogs are prohibited, where they must be leashed, and where they can be off-leash.
Per the new policy, which takes effect in March, dogs will still be prohibited at buildings like the aquatics facility and the community center, in cemeteries, and the pasture at Buzzy’s Ranch, among other areas. Supervisors added Carriage Square Park to the list of sites prohibiting dogs. Additionally, a designation on Mills Park is pending a master plan update for that park.
Most parks will require dogs be leashed. Those where dogs can be off-leash include the Capital City Gun Club, Fuji Park Dog Park, Long Ranch Park, Mayor’s Park, Ronald D. Wilson Memorial Park and Sonoma Park Dog Park. Supervisors conditioned that Ronald D. Wilson Memorial Park only become off-leash after a fence is constructed.
Dogs are required to be leashed at all city trailheads. In open spaces, however, dogs can be off-leash except at Fulstone Wetlands, Old Buzzy’s Ranch and Washoe Wetlands. For the trails themselves, dogs can be off-leash except for Buzzy’s Ranch Trail, Foothill Trail (leash required for first 500 feet) and Fulstone Wetlands Trail. Additionally, dogs are outright prohibited on North Kings Loop and Waterfall Trail.
In August, the Parks and Recreation Commission and Open Space Advisory Committee recommended approval of the draft sent to the board. The policy is a result of a years-long process.
“The dog policy was drafted by the (Parks and Recreation) department based on feedback provided by Carson City residents and users in a public survey from June 2021 (over 800 respondents), as well as extensive discussion and feedback from PRC and OSAC over the course of four joint meetings and two individual meetings held in 2020-2022,” reads a staff report. “Public comment and feedback from both commissions was used to develop the dog policy. Discussions and review of the dog policy also included cooperation with the Nevada Humane Society, Risk Management, user groups and significant feedback from the general public.”
The policy also stipulates responsibilities of dog owners, including protecting watersheds from waste and properly disposing of waste.
“Dog owners have a duty to restrain their dog, maintain voice command/control and keep their dog within sight distance,” says the policy. “Owners shall ensure that other park system users shall be provided the opportunity to recreate in a safe and reasonable manner without fear of conflict from owners or their dogs.”
Furthermore, owners may not allow dogs “to chase, harass or disturb wildlife or livestock.”
Thursday, supervisors added people and other animals to the list of creatures not to be chased. They exempted on-duty K-9 law enforcement units from the policy and also directed staff to include a definition of “leash” as a physical restraint, versus a remote shock collar.
Supervisor Maurice White voted against the new policy, worried off-leash dogs might not be sufficiently controlled by voice command. White shared statements and statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Kennel Club to make a point that most dogs are not trained well and can be dangerous. He said voice command is not enforceable, compared to a leash requirement, which is.
“It’s not worth the risk to have dogs off-leash and unrestrained in the community,” he said.
Budge said her own children have been attacked by off-leash dogs and that she understands how scary it can be. At the same time, she said stricter rules in the committee phase received significant pushback from residents, who preferred sites like Long Ranch be off-leash.
Mayor Lori Bagwell noted open space areas are different than parks and said the latter will have “fencing as mitigation.”
Other supervisors felt the new policy achieved needed compromise.
“I really see this as finding a balance, finding a variety of opportunities,” said Supervisor Lisa Schuette.
Education will also be important, supervisors and staff agreed. People need to know where dogs are allowed, and where they must be leashed.
After the hearing, Budge told the Appeal that Parks and Recreation has three full-time rangers and one part-time seasonal ranger who are authorized to issue misdemeanor citations for violations. However, as the new rules take effect, the department will educate people about where and how they can use public parks and spaces with their dogs.
“Our philosophy, and approach, is education before enforcement,” she said.
The new rules, without Thursday’s amendments, can be found online at https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/1719073/Dog_Rules_and_Regulations_Draft_Policy_FINAL_PL_edits_12.29.2022.pdf.
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