The problem isn't the dogs - it's the owners.

The Marin County Open Space District is considering requiring all dogs be kept on leashes in all Open Space areas, including fire trails where they are currently allowed to run free.

Such a requirement would put even further restrictions on dogs, who already have precious few places in Marin to run free and be what they were designed to be - animals.

We may live in one of the most beautiful areas on earth, but it is an area that is congested with humans, wildlife and pets. Too often, these groups clash.  Fortunately, those conflicts seldom reach the tragic level that recently occurred in San Francisco when a woman was mauled to death by two "pets" at the door to her apartment.

But there are problems.  The Open Space District has received numerous complaints of unleashed dogs nipping at humans, attacking other dogs and chasing wildlife.  The vast majority of these incidents are simply the result of dogs being dogs and have nothing to do with truly "vicious" dogs.

Dogs need a place to run free.  They should not be confined to small spaces and allowed "out" only on leashes.  The problem of course, is that there are too few places where dogs can romp and play.

The answer isn't to further restrict responsible dogs and responsible dog owners.

We need more dog parks.  Novato, which has more city-owned park land than it can develop, has been trying for years to simply fence off an area where dogs can run and play.  The cost and bureaucratic red tape have been ridiculous.  It is like that everywhere.

Communities should make it easier - not more difficult - to construct simple dog parks.  And, dog owners have to be held responsible for the actions of their dogs.  Dogs need to be under control and pose no danger to humans or other animals.  If training and voice control are enough, the animal should be allowed to roam in open space lands.

If it takes a leash or even a muzzle, those need to be applied.  Accidents will happen, even the best trained dogs can get excited.  When that happens, their owners must be held accountable just as they are if they or their children make a mistake.

Putting more restrictions on dogs and dog owners is not a solution; providing more dog parks and making dog owners responsible for their pets' actions are what we really need.