Yesterday, City Council set aside its interminable discussions about the budget, negotiations with unions, the state of San Jose’s roads, and impending layoffs to tackle one of the most beguiling problems ever to face the city. How long should a dog’s leash be? At the end of their discussion, the council voted unanimously in favor of a new city ordinance that limits leash length on city trails to just six feet. Until yesterday, the maximum length was 20 feet. The legislation also required people with dogs to walk or bike on the right side of the trail.
The origin of this law can be traced to a ruling by the California Court of Appeals, which said, “Whatever may be said about the affection which mankind has for a faithful companion, modern city conditions no longer permit dogs to run at large.” The requirement that leashes be no longer than 20 feet was tested two years ago in a freak accident along the Los Alamitos Creek Trail. While Beverly Head, 62, was walking there, she was passed by a man on a mountain bike with two Siberian huskies trailing behind him. She became entangled in the leash and fell backwards on her head, suffering severe brain trauma. Head was declared brain dead a few hours later, and taken off of life support the following day.
Councilwoman Nancy Pyle took up the case, and has since been advocating for stricter leash laws in the city. At the time, Mona Favorite-Hill, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, wondered what the new law might be and how it could be enforced. Now she knows.
The first citation is a warning; the second citation is accompanied by a $100 fine; the third citation within a two-year period could result in a $200 fine. Leashes may only be extended to 20 feet in open, grassy parks, provided that the dogs are not bothering anyone.
Now that this has been decided, the city can get back to other pressing issues like how to pay the salaries and pensions of police officers expected to enforce the new ordinance.