Dogs and Dogwalkers Flock to Ocean Beach for Protest
About 250 people and upward of 350 dogs convened on Ocean Beach Saturday morning for the Mighty Mutt Strut, a walk intended to protest the proposed Dog Management Plan of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Dogs of all varieties chased each other and splashed through the shallow water as their owners waved signs of protest.
“And for every person who was able to make it out here, there’s a lot more who support what we’re doing,” claimed Samir Ghosh, one of the organizers of the event and the creator of saveoffleash.com.
People from throughout the Bay Area traveled to Ocean Beach for the march, which progressed along Sloat Boulevard and concluded in Stern Grove, to symbolize what would happen if dogs and dog walkers were removed from GGNRA parks.
“I’m here because it’s important to preserve off-leash dog access,” explained Bev, who requested that her last name not be used. “One of the great things about the city of San Francisco is our incredible access to open space.
“I obey the law with my dogs. I take them to Fort Funston where they are allowed off-leash. It is such a great, wonderful, huge expanse, and there are so few places where dogs are allowed to be off-leash. And they want to take it away. There needs to be some sharing.”
Susan Adams, another frequenter of Fort Funston, agreed as her dog Thelma Lou splashed in the ocean behind her. “We’ve been coming here for over 30 years. And I’m an environmentalist. I’m sensitive to the issues of the snowy plovers, but we only get access to 1 percent of the coastline. Dogs don’t run rampant through these parks, like they are often portrayed.”
Sarah Schumm, an Ocean Beach resident who walks her dog Dave the Pug along the middle of the beach regularly, raised the question of enforcement.
“They can’t even enforce the off-leash law as it is, so how will they enforce a complete ban of dogs at Ocean Beach? It’s ridiculous,” Schumm said.
She, like many of the protesters, sought to make a distinction between concerned, responsible dog owners, and those who don’t comply with posted rules.
“Look around. There are hundreds of dogs here, and no fights, no attacks, and no problems,” she said. “If you ban law-abiding dog walkers from the beach, all that’s left are the people who break the rules.”
“And it’s people that do most of the damage to the beach, not dogs,” she added.
Dina Mondavi, who lives on the Great Highway, further speculated on the impact of the dog policy on the neighborhood.
“I don’t think the neighborhood will be as safe without dogs and dog walkers,” Mondavi said. “People wouldn’t be out walking around as much without their dogs, so there would be a lot less natural neighborhood watch.”
The march began at around 10:30 a.m., as owners and dogs slowly shuffled across the Great Highway to walk along the northern sidewalk of Sloat Boulevard. Officer Eddie Dare of the San Francisco Police Department was on hand to help with crowd management.
“This is a great event so far,” Dare said. “No problems with any behavior, just a minor traffic congestion to get people across the street, but otherwise everyone is well-behaved.”
Almost a dozen organizations had representatives on hand for the event, including Rocky Golub from Ocean Beach Dog. “This is my backyard, this is your backyard!” he boomed through a megaphone, to the cheering crowd. “My heart is fluttering with excitement to see you all here.”
Event organizers invited all of San Francisco’s current mayoral candidates were invited to the event, but the only to show was John Avalos, a current member of the Board of Supervisors representing District 11.
“I’m here to support broad usage of national and local parks,” Avalos explained. “Dogs, people and nature can co-exist.”
When asked about the potential impact of the Mighty Mutt Strutt on the GGNRA’s policy decision, Ghosh was optimistic. “One in three households in San Francisco has a dog. We have over 10,000 signatures on our petitions. I think that the GGNRA is going to have to listen to us.”
“This isn’t an issue about dog versus bird, like it’s portrayed. It’s about the rights of dog owners, who are voting citizens.”
The public comment period for the GGNRA Dog Management Plan will close May 30, at which point the GGNRA will work toward a final dog policy.