Tranquility broken on bike path

A recent attack by an unleashed dog on a mother and her 7-year-old has rekindled public discussion about ongoing problems with a bike path stretching between Nautilus Street in La Jolla and La Jolla Hermosa Avenue in Bird Rock.

In reply to that incident, Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) e-mailed out this public alert: “Over spring break there was another regrettable incident on the bike path. Somewhere near Via Norte, a mother and her 7-year-old from Bird Rock Elementary were riding their bikes and a German Shepard off-leash attacked both mother and boy. The dog ripped jeans and broke the skin too.

“The dog was with the owner who argued with the mother that his dog had not attacked her and that it was a nice dog. The mother left without (dog owner’s) information due to being in shock and also because the guy was so defensive. Now the family wants to warn other families before something more serious happens. The police and animal control have been notified. We pass along these stories not to frighten folks or discourage use of the bike path, but to encourage you and your children to stay informed and alert.”

“Dogs being off-leash is a growing problem in our local parks and with animal control,” said Joe La Cava, BRCC president. “It’s something we’re concerned about, though there are a lot of good, responsible dog owners who follow the rules and control their dogs.”

San Diego Police Lt. David Nisleit, who recently replaced Brian Ahern covering the Bird Rock area, said problems with the La Jolla-Bird Rock bike path have been duly noted and are being taken seriously. “We’ve asked for some signage to be put up along that trail,” said Nisleit, adding the law is that dogs are required to be on leashes at all times outside private property.” Hopefully, with the new signs, the community will be reinformed that dogs need to be on a leash.”

Nisleit added county Animal Control is the department that handles most off-leash calls. “But if we got a call and saw a dog off-leash,” he said, “we could, and would, enforce the law.”

Animal Control is empowered to quarantine an offending dog if it proves to be a public threat.

A problem with the recent spring break dog attack, said Nisleit, is that the incident was not reported to police. “We should have been contacted as should Animal Control,” he said.

Randy and Terrie Dierlam, who live on La Jolla Hermosa Avenue, said the La Jolla bike path is becoming an increasingly popular area for people to walk their dogs in disregard of the law. “I was menaced by an off-leash dog several months ago on the bike path,” said Randy Dierlam, “and I asked the owner to call the dog off and the owner got deeply insulted. This is the same bike path kids use to get to La Jolla Elementary and La Jolla High School.”

Dierlam said he’s seeing dogs off-leash more and more often. “It’s a daily occurence,” he said. “The other day I went for an early-morning, four-mile walk to Pacific Beach and I observed six dogs off their leashes. They ran by two San Diego police officers and they did nothing and kept walking. I don’t think dogs off-leash need to be SDPD’s highest priority, but they ought to at least stop people, tell them and cite them.”

Michelle Fulchs, a BRCC member who is in charge of Bird Rock’s Neighborhood Watch program, noted is important to put the off-leash dog issue in proper perspective. “It’s another issue of lack of enforcement of existing rules,” she said. “The situation with people getting attacked by dogs in this neighborhood is fairly isolated, and yet, I think we have a growing problem. People are more and more cautious and are using the bike path less and less.”

Fulchs believes the only way people will begin to take notice of, and obey, dog-leash laws is for those laws to be enforced. “We already know the city doesn’t have enough police officers to protect its citizens,” she said. “Police officers aren’t sitting on the bike path just to ticket people. It’s going to be one of those peer pressure and policing each other (issues).”