Ocean Beach Blog
An Open Letter to Guide Dogs for the Blind
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Ms. Tamara Barak
Communications Specialist for Guide Dogs for the Blind
415 499-4000
 
Dear Ms. Barak,
 
It has come to my attention that Guide Dogs for the Blind has endorsed a petition demanding that the GGNRA enact an emergency regulation to enforce a ban on off-leash recreation throughout the GGNRA. 
 
I am sorry to see that an organization I respected is so careless with their endorsement.  It does not speak well of your organization.  I suggest that you might want to visit the Ocean Beach DOG website at http://oceanbeachdog.home.mindspring.com
 
There you will find the explanation behind all that is currently happening with respect to off-leash recreation in the GGNRA.  You will find that off-leash recreation was established in the GGNRA when the properties in San Francisco were turned over to the GGNRA in the late 1970s. The off-leash areas were "officially" established in the document known as the 1979 Pet Policy.  Since this Pet Policy appears to conflict with the underlying rules of the National Park Service, there has been controversy over the years as to whether the 1979 Pet Policy was indeed legitimate.  Based upon public comment some years ago, the GGNRA has been instructed by the National Park Service to establish some off-leash recreational sites in the GGNRA and they will be codified properly by the Negotiated Rulemaking Process.  That process is scheduled to begin in the next month. In the interim, there has been activity in the courts regarding the 1979 Pet Policy.  Earlier this year, the Federal Court determined that the 1979 Pet Policy was legal and currently in effect in the GGNRA.
 
For your organization to oppose off-leash recreation in the GGNRA shows a blatant disregard for the courts, public policy and the rights of the dog owners who are also taxpayers who support these park facilities.  Your excuse that you want to be assured of the safety of your clients is a pathetic excuse for your ignorance.  Less than one percent of the GGNRA properties allow off-leash recreation.  To suppose that your clients could not find a way to enjoy the GGNRA in the 99% that remains is absurd.  It is also selfish and shows an inherent disregard for the needs of dogs in our society in general.   
 
As a healthcare provider, I have had blind patients who have utilized a guide dog.  I found that these patients had a strong regard for their dogs' needs as well as their own.  I distinctly recall one man who brought his shepherd, Pixie, to the park every day.  He said he did so because "Pixie loved the park".  I am aware of hearing impaired patients who bring their service dogs to off-leash dog areas because they feel they need to "play" as well as work.  Not to mention the emotional support pets offer children and adults who have no stated disability.  Dogs are members of our family, they bond to us and provide us with companionship and support unlike any other species known to man.  It follows that we would want to share the pleasure of a game of frisbee or catch with our dogs.  This is not possible on a leash.  I should think that your organization would not need to be given an explanation of the bond between man and his dog--is that not the basis of your clients' working relationship between themselves and their canine guide?  Did you just have a brain freeze when you decided to support Mr. Plater's ill-intentioned petition? 
 
I suggest your organization withdraw your support of Mr. Plater and his group immediately.  The San Francisco Bay Area has a well organized dog community, and we pay attention to the stands organizations take.  Your decision here tells me you do not care much for the welfare of dogs as a group.    I believe you will find the negative publicity this terrible decision creates will not assist you in your fundraising efforts. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Dr. Suzanne Valente

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