Jim Ward looks forward to daily walks with Sparky, his fox terrier-miniature pinscher mix, at Ohlone Park in Northwest Berkeley. But in the past year and a half since Ward has had Sparky, the two have been troubled by large and aggressive dogs who share the same play space at the park.
In fact, Ward said he witnessed a puppy being attacked last week by a larger dog in the park. When a woman intervened and tried to protect the puppy, she was badly bitten and allegedly began to bleed, Ward said. He added that this is just one of many attacks he has seen.
“My dad has had to flee a number of times because of large dogs coming after Sparky or homeless people not controlling their larger dogs,” said his son, Drew Ward. “Some large dogs approach smaller dogs as prey while others just do not know how to play with the smaller dogs appropriately.”
Consequently, Jim Ward has been forced to abandon his daily walks and opt for far fewer visits due to safety concerns.
Drew Ward said he and his father recently addressed the city Parks and Recreation Commission with the solution of partitioning the dog area with a fence to separate small dogs from the larger dogs, but he said their concern went unnoticed.
“Judging from the looks on their faces, they could not wait for us to be finished and move on,” Drew Ward said. “They wanted to dismiss it.”
City spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross said she is aware that some residents and dog park users have discussed the idea of portioning the park but that there has been no official proposal presented and thus no action will ensue at this time.
She added that the Parks and Recreation Commission has jurisdiction over the park and that when fights between dogs occur, dog owners can call Animal Care Services to take care of it.
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, who said he spoke directly with Drew Ward, said while he thinks the proposal is definitely something the city should consider and look into, it is first and foremost the responsibility of individual dog owners to ensure that their animals are abiding by the rules of the park and not acting in an aggressive manner toward smaller dogs.
“This could happen when you walk down the street with a small dog and approach a larger dog,” Arreguin said. “Fundamentally, it is the owner’s responsibility.”
He added that he has addressed the issue with the city manager and park director to try to shed light on the proposal.
The neighboring cities of Alameda and Vallejo already separate their dog parks by canine size.
“One of the images of Berkeley has been of being human and progressive, and it is disappointing that Berkeley cannot do something as small as fixing this dog park issue,” Drew Ward said.