Dog owners growl over ‘biased’ GGNRA

Dog owners groups fighting proposed dog management rules for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Wednesday released documents they say show the National Park Service has engaged in biased decision making and destruction of records.

The documents, obtained from the park service through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, were released on a site the groups have called WoofieLeaks.com.

Andrea Buffa, a member of the dog owner advocacy group Save Our Recreation, said:

“We’ve found documents that show that their process was really not fair, they were really biased against people who supported dog walking.”

Buffa said more documents will be posted, but those on the site so far include messages allegedly showing some cooperation between park service officials and environmental groups supporting restrictions on dogs.

In addition, some messages appear to show park service officials discussing a failure to retain emails relating to the dog rules and even directing other staff to delete certain messages and communicate instead by phone.

The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by dog owners groups in April alleging that the park service was “slow walking” its response to the groups’ requests for data until after a public comment period ended on proposed changes to rules on dog walking in the GGNRA.

Buffa said the park service appeared to be “rushing” the regulations through before a new administration takes over.

The park service released a final proposal on Dec. 8 for dog management rules in the GGNRA after years of opposition from local dog owners groups and elected officials. The rules are expected to be finalized by Jan. 10 and implemented no earlier than March 1.

The agency and dog owners have been battling for years over proposed restrictions on dog walking within the 80,000-acre national recreation area, which spans Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties and includes popular dog walking areas such as Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Crissy Field, Muir Beach and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

Park officials have described the plan as “dog friendly,” and said it is intended to balance the needs of different park users, protect natural and cultural resources including wildlife and increase public safety.

However, dog owners groups have said the plan drastically reduces the areas available for dog walking, especially off leash, and have indicated they expect to sue to block the rule from taking effect.

Park service officials today said they could not comment on the lawsuit or allegations made on the web site.