Off-leash dogs menace Encinitas neighborhood, resident says

Jennifer Campbell, Encinitas director of parks and recreation, said in an email that the city has spoken to Humane Society officials about Herman’s complaints.

An Encinitas man has grown frustrated with the response of the San Diego Humane Society, after reporting about a dozen encounters with off-leash dogs in his neighborhood over the past 13 months.

Randy Herman, who lives on Saint Albans Place, said his dogs were bitten in the some of the attacks, which occurred when he or a dog walker were walking his dogs in his neighborhood. Following one attack, Herman had to take his dog to a veterinarian where it underwent surgery for its wounds. A dog walker employed by Herman was bitten during at least two of the incidents, according to Herman.

In several other incidents, loose dogs have aggressively approached his house, and were prevented from entering and attacking his dogs by a heavy mesh security door, Herman said.

“It’s got to change,” said Herman, who has lived in his home on the east side of Encinitas, just north of Leucadia Boulevard, for about five years.

Herman reported all of the incidents to the Humane Society, which provides enforcement of animal laws and other animal-related services under a contract with the city of Encinitas. The city began contracting with the Human Society in July 2018, and pays the agency $466,327 per year for its services.

Herman’s frustration stems from the agency’s approach to enforcing the city’s laws regarding off-leash dogs. Over the past year, he said, some of the dog owners have allowed their pets to roam free on multiple occasions, and Herman said they should be cited for the violations to encourage compliance.

“It’s going to continue to happen until people feel the hurt of letting their dogs loose,” Herman said.

Herman also said he was told by Humane Society officials that officers cannot legally cite a dog owner unless the officer witnesses the violation.

However, Nina Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said in an email that officers are able to cite even if they don’t personally witness the violation, if they have corroborating evidence such as witness statements, photos or videos taken by the victim, or an admission of guilt by the pet owner.

According to Thompson, Humane officers responded to each of Herman’s calls regarding off-leash dogs, which were at a number of different addresses in his neighborhood. In cases involving off-leash violations, officers first contact dog owners to educate them about the city’s regulations. In seven of the cases, said Thompson, there were no repeat violations.

Officers did go to one home twice, and another home three times for repeat violations. Thompson said in the latter case, the dog owner was issued a citation.

The fine for a first violation is $50, which increases to $100 for a second violation, Thompson said. If an owner has a third violation within 24 months, the case can be handled as a misdemeanor, and the owner can be fined $300.

Jennifer Campbell, Encinitas director of parks and recreation, said in an email that the city has spoken to Humane Society officials about Herman’s complaints. She said she was not aware of any similar situations involving numerous off-leash dog attacks in other parts of the city.

Herman said that in spite of the response by the Humane Society, the attacks have continued, with one occurring as recently as the end of July, and he doesn’t feel safe walking his dogs in his neighborhood. He said he would like to see increased enforcement of leash laws, with more citations issued to dog owners who violate the rules.

He noted that in one case, which occurred last summer, a dog jumped out of the window of a house and attacked his dog and the dog walker. He said the owner denied that the dog had been loose, and he is not aware that a citation has been issued to that owner.

Campbell said the city is working to remind dog owners to observe leash laws, and that a “Leash Up” campaign has been launched in partnership with the Humane Society. Banners have been posted throughout the city, information has been added to the city’s recreation brochure and Humane officers made a presentation about leash laws at a City Council meeting.

Signage outlining leash laws have also been posted at city parks, beaches and trails, Campbell said.