In January, a confrontation about off-leash dogs at Rancho Corral de Tierra on the Midcoast ended badly when a ranger used a Taser to subdue a resistant dog walker. Now, National Park officials are dealing with another incident involving man’s best friend unleashed at a Golden Gate National Recreation Area facility.
The latest incident involved an unleashed dog roaming Crissy Field in San Francisco. The dog attacked a horse-mounted park officer, injuring the horse and its rider. The incident occurred Monday and led authorities to impound the dog and arrest the owner for not restraining his animal.
It all started when a pit bull began barking at a U.S. Park police officer riding along the western edge of the property. The dog’s owner was nearby but reportedly made no effort to bring the animal under control. The dog lunged forward and attacked the horse, biting its underbelly and grabbing onto its back leg. The panicked horse fell over and knocked its rider to the ground.
The horse got up and ran back to its stable with the dog in pursuit. The horse was able to kick the pit bull and scare it away. The dog was later captured by another park officer and was later handed over to a vicious dog unit of the San Francisco Animal Care and Control department.
The dog owner, a 44-year-old San Francisco resident, was found responsible for the attack, and he was arrested for several crimes including assault on a police officer. The horse survived but later needed stitches on its bite wounds. The officer suffered some bruises from the fall, but no other injuries.
Unlike the Midcoast property, areas of Crissy Field allow off-leash dog walking so long as the owner can maintain control. GGNRA officials are currently working to finalize a dog management plan to codify its rules.
GGNRA spokesman Howard Levitt said the attack highlights the dangers and responsibility off-leash dogs can present to rangers or the public.
“National Park rangers have a difficult job enforcing the law,” he said, “The presence in this case of an off-leash dog out of control creates a dangerous situation for them.”
Enforcement of dog-walking rules has always been a hot-button topic on the Coastside, but the issue turned explosive after a GGNRA ranger shot a Montara dog walker with a Taser in January. Many observers, including U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, criticized the response as an example of excessive force, but National Park officials said the man had lied about his identity and twice tried to walk away from the scene.
Department of the Interior officials completed a investigation of the Taser incident months ago, but GGNRA officials have held back on releasing it to the public due to “privacy and legal-related issues,” according to Levitt. He could not say when or if it would be made available.
“This case involves a violation of the law and there’s legal issues surrounding that, like the possibility of prosecution, and there’s the possibility of civil claims,” he said. “We’re continuing to work that through as soon as we can.”