Dog owners busted in South Park

Without complete fencing, what is a master to do?

Lack of fencing offers plenty opportunity to escape Grape Street Dog Park
  • Lack of fencing offers plenty opportunity to escape Grape Street Dog Park
  • image from Yelp

South Park's Grape Street off-leash dog park became a risky place to have a dog off-leash on Wednesday morning, April 22. When the park opened for the day at 10 a.m., a team of law-enforcement officers were on hand to write tickets for off-leash and unlicensed dogs, issuing additional warnings to several other dog owners.

The coordinated leash-and-license check involved a team of two SD police officers, a county Animal Services official, and a ranger from the city's Parks & Recreation Department. A witness arriving at 11 a.m. said additional police cars and officers had arrived. She described "a row of cops, animal control, and park rangers lined up on the fence" at the park entrance. Twelve citations were issued over the course of about three hours, mostly for dogs being off-leash in the roughly ten-yard walk between the park entrance and its two-block strip of parking lot on the west side of 28th Street.

The uniformed officers targeted people walking between their cars and the park, including a couple that witnesses say received three citations — one for each of three dogs exiting their vehicle without a leash. Other dog owners inside the park with their pets were cited for being unable to produce a dog license issued by the county's Animal Services department — proof that their dogs were up to date on rabies vaccinations.

Additionally, the Animal Services official carried a handheld scanner and used it to check a number of dogs for an embedded microchip, a popular technology used to identify dogs and their owners' addresses. Microchips are not required by law. SDPD sources say their objective was "to scan the dogs that did not have their licenses on them to confirm their status." A number of people present said they were asked by police to show proof of ID or witnessed police ask someone else in their presence.

Proof of a dog’s license may be requested for a dog in public places, and a leash is required outside defined park bounds — both are listed among a set of rules posted at the entrance to the dog park.

First-time offense for off-leash violation incurs a fine that adds up to roughly $205 — a base $50 bail, plus approximately $155 in penalties tacked on by county and state legislation. A similar fine for failure to show proof of license may be waived by showing proof of license to the court.

However, these rules are not routinely enforced with such a showy effort. An officer was seen onsite Monday and Tuesday (April 20 and 21) to issue warnings to some park-goers, though several dog owners present for Wednesday's sweep said they were caught off guard and that the presence of so many officers raised tensions, even among those who weren't targeted.

"They were clamping down all of a sudden and being very indiscriminate,” said a professional dog walker and park regular. "People were nervous."

"People were sketched," added another.

The timing of the sweep seems geared to appease neighbors of the park — specifically, residents of a row of ten homes situated across the street, facing the parking strip.

A statement from SDPD media relations read, "Residents living across from the park have voiced their concerns over the years regarding dogs running lose [sic] in the area and into their yards…. Recently, two residents sent an email to the City asking for help with getting the users of the park to comply with the rules."

The statement also mentioned that the officer on site Monday "Saw dogs running from the park to and from cars and saw at least two dogs running across the street into residents' yards."

There's a documented history of acrimony between dog-park supporters and some residents of the homes along 28th Street, culminating in a 2004 city-council vote wherein the park's off-leash status ultimately prevailed. Still, a representative of councilman Todd Gloria's office says it continues to receive "regular complaints from some Grape Street Park neighbors."

One park regular concedes dogs enter these yards "once in a while," but suggested it has more to do with dogs escaping the park than people walking to and from cars. As another park-goer noted, "I think the bigger problem is dogs leaving the park because of the lack of a fence." The five-acre park has only partial fencing, giving dogs the opportunity to leave the designated off-leash area in pursuit of cats, squirrels, or other dogs.

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HOLEY BALOGNEY.... Grape St park has been a defacto dog park since before 1988, Judy the Beauty from The Big Kitchen and I used to "run" our dogs there from 1987 -1992. It was of no real consequence other than the lack of cleanliness from the lack of clean-up by dog owners. I believe that in general clean-up has been adopted by most dog owners over the years....(I usually picked up more than Libby and Dempsey's share) Again it is who was here first? Dog Park or Condo Owners, open space is open space and we all pay for it through taxes, etc. NIMBY in action after the fact. The draconian efforts by the police and county animal enforcement was just as described draconian.
Remember dogs are people too or is that dog people pay taxes too... If all the police have to do is over enforce dog laws we must truly live in "America's finest city" BBQ

SDPD has always had a tendency to overreact. It sounds like a little overkill. I think it would have been better to have Animal Control show up and warn the dog owners that they needed to obey the rules. After several days of warning then come back and issue tickets to the repeat offenders. Generally it is the same people who visit the park day after day.

Dear Reader,

So,......from your own article:

"Recently, 'two' residents sent an email to the City asking for help with getting the users of the park to comply with the rules."%


"The coordinated leash-and-license check involved a team of two SD police officers, a county Animal Services official, and a ranger from the city's Parks & Recreation Department." *

Is it just me, or does this scenario BEG for a little investigative journalism. WTF? 2 residents email the city with this ^^^ THIS % ^^^ type of complaint, and it gets ^^^THIS * ^^^ type of response.

Hmm..., Just curious, might individuals of "atypical" influence be part of those 'two' or nearby residents who complained? Seems like an extraordinary response to a rather benign situation....

...that, or maybe I'm just getting cynical.....

I swear people don't bother to read the facts stated in the article. It clearly stated that police, animal control, and P&R rangers were there in response to YEARS of complaints, and AFTER spending two days prior issuing warnings to dog owners. Police witnessed dogs off leash, dogs running into yards, the same things the complaints stated were and had been occurring to cause their complaints.

Instead of being outraged that you got busted, here's a thought: admit you're wrong. And don't do it again.

No, I bet I know what you're going to do. Run and cry to your little friend Todd Gloria about how mean the police are, like the entitled idiots you expose yourselves as being.

4th Amendment violation by the officers. No probable cause. One thing that the far right and far left should be able to agree on--not even A LITTLE Gestapo tactics should be tolerated.


Who hasn't had their heart stopped by seeing a dog heading back to their Human's car trotting in between and behind cars pulling out? Who hasn't witnessed leash-less dogs making a beeline towards the entrance across parking spaces visitors are pulling into? Who hasn't observed leash-less dogs dashing from the car door across the lot to a private yard to detain a fleeing frightened feline in a private yard? If you're not a daily park visitor you might be surprised at the regularity of which these events occur. The posted leash regulations make common sense for the safety, protection and consideration of dogs, visitors and the neighborhood community. Is it fair to blame city officials for holding us accountable for responsible dog ownership they have made clear to us via signs and warnings? And is it becoming to the dog community to hurl insults and innuendos when expressing our reactions to the recent enforcement of these city park ordinances?

I understand the reason for the law but it is hard for me to comply at Grape St. Unfortunately my dog has really bad "leash aggression" so there is a high probability of a negative encounter in the parking lot. Unless everyone else complied, then it would be fine. The problem I have is if I have him on a leash and someone else lets there dog out in the lot than its a problem. And seriously can't they put up a short fence like other parks? Even if they are on a leash other dogs can just run out to greet us. Maybe they can take some of the ticket revenue and buy a fence!!

Tough cookies, shuttrbg22. I'm sure your dog has a gluten allergy, too. If the pooch has "leash aggression," then bring him somewhere else.

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