National Park Service Gives Up Fight Over GGNRA Dog Regulations

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Beachgoers play fetch with dogs at Crissy Field in San Francisco on May 13, 2014.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

After a 14-year planning process, the National Park Service (NPS) has announced that it won't be implementing new restrictions on dogs visiting the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The decision, announced yesterday, came after years of debate, outcry from the public and a release of emails, referred to as WoofieLeaks.

The saga began in 2002, when the GGNRA began enforcing nationwide National Park Service regulations for pets, but a federal court found that the park did not follow the correct rule-making protocols. Since then, the NPS has been working on the Dog Management Plan environmental review.

The doggy debate raged as the NPS came closer to a decision. The NPS argued that the GGNRA was already the most dog-friendly of the national parks, but opponents of the new regulations argued that the park itself was meant to be urban, and therefore not governed under the same rules as other parks.

The GGNRA's proposal would have required dogs to be leashed in areas where they once ran free and would ban them entirely from other areas. One of the NPS arguments for the regulations was the protection of the snowy plover, a threatened bird species found in the park.

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After public hearings for the first draft, released in 2011, a second draft came out in 2013. In 2016, an environmental impact report was released ahead of a final decision that would have reduced the number of places dogs can run without a leash. The final decision was expected in early 2017. It didn't come.

In January, the NPS announced it would be suspending the Dog Management Plan as an investigation into personal emails was carried out. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request related to the park’s Dog Management Plan was filed. The result was 137 pages of emails that had to be released.

In yesterday's announcement, an independent review team concluded "the use of personal email by NPS employees to conduct official business was inappropriate, but the emails the team reviewed ultimately did not influence the outcome of the planning and rulemaking process."

As for the dog regulations, the release said "it is no longer appropriate to proceed with the rulemaking process." The National Park Service will now be enforcing the existing dog regulations from 1979.