Pit Bulls in the Parkway

Too many of them, belonging to the homeless illegally camping in the Parkway, are running loose and biting Parkway users, as this story in the Sacramento Bee reports.

An excerpt.

Gabriel Frazee was riding his bike near a homeless encampment on the American River Parkway last month when he was attacked by two pit bulls.

One dog, Wally, bit Frazee on the ankle and twice on the leg, hitting bone with the last two bites, Frazee said. The other dog, Felony, bit his forearm. Frazee received sutures for the bites in the emergency room, records show.

Getting attacked by an aggressive dog is a persistent fear among runners, bikers and other regular users of the American River Parkway. Just as illegal camping has increased garbage and fires along the parkway, it also accounts for another problem – unleashed dogs that serve as companions and security guards for homeless people clustered on the riverbanks.

Larry Glover-Meade, president of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association, and Jim Brown, executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, say they have received a number of complaints about dogs on the parkway. They believe the concerns deter people from using the parkway, particularly west of Sacramento State where camps are concentrated.

“Unfortunately what happened to Gabe (Frazee) is what a lot of people have feared or experienced on the parkway,” Brown said.

Lily Toppenberg said she was chased by a pit bull when she was riding her bike on the parkway to her home in the adjacent Woodlake neighborhood. She was not bit but remains fearful.

“I now carry bear spray on my handlebars when riding,” she said.

According to animal control officials for the city and county of Sacramento, most of the dogs owned by the homeless are pit bulls or pit-bull mixes. “The homeless seem to need these dogs for protection and sometimes these dogs don’t know when protection is really needed and attack for the wrong reasons,” said Dave Dickinson, director of the county’s Department of Animal Care and Regulation.

In the last three years, 17 dog bites have been reported to city animal control for incidents on the city portion of the parkway, said Sacramento Chief Animal Control Officer Jace Huggins. Dog bites are inevitably the result of a unleashed dog, he said. Under the state law, dogs cannot be tethered to objects, meaning that dogs on the parkway should always be held by the owner on a leash.

Sacramento County rangers cite about a half-dozen people every month for not having dogs on leashes in county parks, including the American River Parkway. More often than not, rangers let offenders off with a warning. Rangers issued 107 citations and 492 warnings for leash violations in 2014 and 2015, the last years complete statistics are available.

Frazee was bit by an unleashed dog and then by the other dog after its owner let go of the leash trying to assist Frazee.

County spokeswoman Kim Nava said rangers try to educate dog owners, citing them only after warnings fail to produce compliance.

Frazee blames county rangers for his attack. He said it would not have happened if the county enforced the camping ordinance and prevented homeless people and their dogs from living on the parkway. He pointed to a December story in The Sacramento Bee showing that rangers were on pace to cite half as many people for illegal camping on the parkway last year.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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