Mike Corsini  -  Staff Intern

The publicity and public furor over a fatal dog attack in San Francisco has caused Marin County Open Space District officials to postpone a public meeting on a proposed leash law for dogs using Marin open space.  The meeting was originally scheduled for Feb. 20.

Fran Brigmann, director of the Marin County Open Space District, says people should call about the middle of April (499-6387) to find out the exact date of the hearing.

The subject of the meeting will be the MCOSD's recommendation that all dogs be on leash at all times when on Open Space land.  The current policy allows dogs to be off-leash and under voice control on most Open Space fire roads.

The Open Space District initially became concerned about the number of commercial dog walkers who were letting up to 12 dogs run loose on the trails.

"We received a lot of complaints about people who were being bitten and intimidated and about wildlife being chased," Brigmann said.

John Reese of the Marin Humane Society has a conflciting view of the recommendation.  He claims that there have been relatively few complaints from MCOSD, given the amount of open space available for dog walkers.

There have been 81 dog-related incidents and complaints reported over the past two years.  Reese and the Humane Society consider that total minimal given the acreage of the Open Space and the amount of people using the roads.

"I am curious as to how many of the complaints are actually on the fire roads in question," Reese said, "because others would not be valid for this issue."

Reese says that horses, bicyclists, and even cattle currently use the trails, and "they have no less impact than dogs if the dog owners use the property responsibly and have their dogs under voice control."  Reese supports the existing ban of dogs on wildlife sensitive land, but he argues that Open Space roads represent less than 1 percent of total Open Space land.

According to Brigmann, the MCOSD staff "talked about requiring anyone with three dogs or more to have them on leash then we thought we would just bite the bullet and require all dogs to be on leash.  We began hearing from people who were afraid to go into the open space because of the dogs."

Brigmann is a dog owner herself and understands how people feel about their dogs.  "People love their dogs.  For many they are the family and for some they love their dogs second only to their kids.   Marin needs more dog walks.  Unfortunately, some dog owners don't get it.  They refuse to take responsibility."

Even though the hearing has been postponed, both sides of the issue encourage people to speak up.  There are contacts on the Humane Society's website ( and Brigmann says the Open Space District wants to hear from people (499-6387).

"The comments we're receiving are running about 50-50," she says.  "There isn't a clear mandate one way or another."