SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s parks department backed away from a plan to fence all canine play areas, an idea proposed after vicious attacks on two area residents but loudly protested by dog owners.
The new proposal would still restrict unleashed dogs to fenced areas at the vast majority of the city’s parks. Bigger spaces, however, would use landscaping or paths to designate off-leash areas, and the largest parks would offer off-leash "trail and meadow experiences," parks spokeswoman Becky Ballinger said.
"We made a lot of compromises," Ballinger said this week after a meeting to announce the revisions.
The parks department has authority to clarify how the city’s long-ignored leash law is enforced over its 3,400 acres of parkland, though city leaders could overrule the department. Current law requires dogs to be leashed except in 19 designated areas, but the animals run freely in most parks, and tickets are generally given only in response to complaints.
The original proposal to fence all play areas caused a citywide furor in June. Hundreds of people protested outside City Hall with their dogs, and angry letters appeared in local newspapers.
But proponents pointed to the maulings of Diane Whipple and Shawn Jones and said children need safe places to play. Whipple, 33, was killed in January by two mastiffs that lived with her neighbors. In June, three pit bulls attacked 11-year-old Shawn in nearby Richmond.
Parks officials had not yet determined how many off-leash areas the city would have under the new policy.
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