Austin Parks and Rec cracking down on off-leash dogs in parks

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s a rule many dog owners might not think twice about breaking, but Austin Parks and Recreation staff members say too many dogs are running without leashes in local parks.

While some parks have off-leash spaces, Austin park ranger LeAnn Ishcomer says too many dog owners are letting their dogs roam outside of those designated areas.

“It’s something that we see every day,” Ishcomer said. “One of our top contacts is dealing with folks who have their dogs off leash.”

Ashley Endler says her 2-year-old son had a close call with a pair of off-leash dogs in West Austin Park a couple of weeks ago. She said she had to scream and run toward the dogs to stop them from charging her son.

“He was really scared,” Endler said. “He started crying, and he wet his pants. It was just an awful experience.”

Ishcomer says she’s hearing too many stories like Endler’s.

“We want to keep the lands open and inviting for everybody to use,” Ishcomer said.

She and others in the Parks and Recreation Department are starting an education effort. They’ll use a social media campaign pushing owners to walk their dogs responsibly, and they’re creating a giant, three-sided sign to place in parks where they’re having issues.

“It’s something like 8-feet-tall and so wide,” she said, “so that it’s very obvious this is an on-leash area.”

The sign will be finished and making its way around different parks in just a few weeks. Parks and Recreation staff will start by putting it in parks with the worst off-leash problems, like Zilker Park, the Barton Greenbelt and the Bull Creek Greenbelt.

Ischcomer says she and her fellow rangers will be also out warning dog owners breaking the rules. They can’t issue tickets themselves, but APD officers can, and they can cost hundreds of dollars.

“When there’s an issue where people need more convincing, then we do get the police,” Ishcomer said.

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