“There seems to be a persistent and pervasive problem in Forest Hills (and neighboring areas) of dog walkers failing to leash their dogs,” Forest Hills neighbor Paul Walters recently wrote in an email to Council member Mary Cheh:
This is dangerous for the dog, the owner, and others. A dog’s behavior with people or other animals cannot be predicted nor can it be controlled, regardless of how much an owner thinks their dog is well-behaved. And, the DC leash law requires it:
900.3: No person owning, keeping, or having custody of a dog in the District shall permit the dog to be on any public space in the District, other than a dog park established by section 9a of the Animal Control Act of 1979, passed on 2nd reading on September 20, 2005 (Enrolled version of Bill 16-28), unless the dog is firmly secured by a substantial leash. The leash shall be held by a person capable of managing the dog.
I and neighbors (and our own dogs) have frequently been set upon by unleashed dogs. Our neighbor’s dog was recently injured, requiring expensive veterinary treatment.
The [Metropolitan Police Department] will not enforce this except in extreme circumstances. But there is no signage, that I am aware of, that tells walkers to leash their dog per the municipal code, particularly in the Broad Branch stream restoration area, the Linnean stream area, and other [National Park Service] or District park areas. In those areas, dog walkers seem to treat the public property as though private farmland and let their dogs run free.
We need signage for the leash-law requirement, and for picking up dog poop (another pervasive problem). Please have your office work with the relevant District and NPS offices on a program to place prominent signage clearly stating: leash your dog; pick up their poop.
Julia Washburn, the superintendent of Rock Creek Park, agrees that off-leash dogs are a problem in the park. She explains in an email:
Dogs scare and sometimes injure park visitors or other dogs. They also harm the forest and the creek. Dogs trample native plants, compact soils, contribute to soil erosion especially on banks of the creek and its tributaries, scare and injure wildlife, and contribute to forest fragmentation which means loss of habitat for native plants and wildlife. Dog poop, if not picked up, contributes to water pollution.
She goes on to explain that the National Park Service is forming a regional task group to address this problem. At some parks there is a “B.A.R.K. Ranger” education program. Rock Creek Park will also consider better signage, enforcement and communications.
Do you think off-leash dogs are a problem? Or uncollected dog poop? What are some potential solutions? (We made these signs.)