As many as 43 rare or threatened species may be found on the Preserve, including nesting birds and other animals that are vulnerable to disturbance by pets. Birds can abandon their nests if disturbed by people or pets that wander off the trails. Nesting animals often hide in shrubs or grassy areas very near trail edges. A curious dog can easily find and disturb these animals, and the encounter may result in a missed opportunity for that animal to breed. This happens more often than most of us know, and the consequences are measurable: the number of birds are in steep decline in many areas, including at the SMFP.
Off-leash dogs also face dangers from wildlife. We know of two coyote attacks on dogs that were walking off-leash in local open spaces (including at the SMFP) and one of these attacks ended up in the death of a beloved pet. The SMFP also has a large rattlesnake population, and uncontrolled dogs are very vulnerable to snake bite.
CIR has been working with the County to educate visitors at the SMFP about why dogs should be on leashes. Our message: the laws are not arbitrary, and they are mostly designed to protect wildlife. We have posted flyers at the Preserve, and also included information on our web page. The County has posted additional signage making it clear that leash laws are in force. Still, most pet owners who visit the Preserve act as if it is an off-leash dog park (there are six parks that are officially designated as off-leash in the Santa Barbara area). As a result, the County ranger has been issuing tickets, which has caused outrage by many of the pet owners.
We would like to hear from you about this issue!
Do you think it's reasonable to require dogs be on leashes in wildlife preserves like the SMFP? Considering that there are many parks and open spaces that allow off-leash dog-walking, should the leash laws elsewhere be enforced? We know that people have a variety of opinions on this subject, and we would like to hear from you no matter what you think (we will keep your comments confidential).
Please send us an email with your thoughts to: