Around Town | July 26, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 26, 2013

Around Town

DOG, CAT AND MOUSE ... Palo Alto's dog owners often lament the dearth of dog parks, off-leash areas and other local amenities for their loyal, slobbering companions. Now, however, they have one new weapon at their disposal — a watchdog at City Hall. Howard Hoffman, a former soccer coach and founder of the newly formed group Palo Alto Dog Owners, introduced himself and his group this week to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Hoffman said the group already includes a few hundred people, mostly dog owners but also some who used to own dogs and who still sympathize. Their goal? To change the status quo. "We've got three rather pathetic dog runs," Hoffman told the commission. "Some people refer to them as dog parks. I wouldn't call them that. They're really not good for exercising your dogs." Some, he said, have little grass or are covered in dirt, which makes the prospect of throwing Frisbees or balls unappealing. Fences are also substandard, he said, noting that his dog can jump over the Hoover Park fence any time she wants. Because of these poor conditions, dog owners often end up taking their dogs off leash, in violation of local law. "Not that we want to flout the law," Hoffman said. "We have a game of cat and mouse with Animal Control, which is periodically giving out citations." What do the dog people need to escape from the cat-and-mouse predicament? Hoffman said they would be satisfied with a dual-use facility like Nealon Park in Menlo Park. There, a baseball field accommodates dogs and their owners for two hours every weekday morning. Even that, however, would only be a partial solution. "Ultimately, the best thing would be decent-sized, dedicated dog parks," Hoffman said.

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