The city of Lakewood is reminding residents of the leash law at its city parks and ramping up enforcement.
The move comes after a neighbor of Fort Steilacoom Park complained in a e-mail to Mayor Don Anderson that she’s tired of being harassed by off-leash dogs at the park.
The large park has a popular 22-acre dog park, the only place at any city park where pooches can roam free, but the resident said there are many owners that violate the law and the city is doing a poor job enforcing it.
“I also am allowed to use the park and I should be able to do so without having to worry about being bitten or harassed by dogs off leash when the law says they should be ON a leash,” she wrote in an email.
Anderson agreed she has a point.
“My anecdotal observations are that the dog park attracts dog owners who don’t necessarily use the dog park,” Anderson wrote to the interim city manager and the city’s communications director. “There may even be more off leash dogs in the park now than there were before the dog park.”
The mayor said in an interview he doesn’t view it as a serious problem and hopes that incidents involving off-leash dogs can be minimized by raising awareness of the leash law.
“It’s a magnet for people with dogs because it has the best dog park within 100 miles in any direction,” Anderson said.
The park recently was voted by South Sound Magazine as the “best pet park” for the third consecutive year.
The city sent out a press release Thursday reminding residents to lease their dogs at city parks and also dispatched animal control officers to enforce the law.
“We have ramped up our enforcement and education a bit,” said Jeff Brewster, a city spokesman.
The fine for a first violation is $75. The fine for a second violation is $125 and continued offenses are capped at $250 each.
Parks and Recreation Director Mary Dodsworth said her department periodically receives complaints about off-lease dogs at Fort Steilacoom Park. Often, she said, residents will park further away from the off-lease area and let their dogs roam over to it untethered. Her department operates and maintains the area in concert with Protect our Pets (POP), a Tacoma-based volunteer organization.
The off-leash area recently opened a dedicated area for small dogs.
Four acres of the area was known as the “small dog park” but was also used for dogs with special needs, Dodsworth explained. That led to some confusion and frustration, she said, among dog owners as they wondered why large dogs were in an area set aside for smaller pooches. A Eagle Scout candidate developed an area reserved for small dogs.
Also, the city is seeking sponsors to provide dog poop disposal bags free to residents.
The city used to provide the bags free of charge, but the more than $10,000 annual expense was a victim of budget cuts. One sponsor, Emergency Animal Clinic, has stepped forward last year to restore some of the lost funding. The city encourages dog owners to carry a plastic bag or two to clean up after their pets.
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