An off-leash dog trail in Mukilteo?

Council discusses possibility; staff advises keeping things as is
By Kate Agbayani | Jul 24, 2019

Questions about whether dogs can be off-leash were brought up once again at a worksession Monday, July 22, where the Mukilteo City Council discussed if there should be an off-leash trail in Big Gulch.

Currently, all dogs or other pets must be physically controlled at all times by a leash, according to Mukilteo’s Municipal Code.

The only off-leash dog park in Mukilteo is the Tails and Trails Dog Park on Fifth Street.

An off-leash trail in Big Gulch would provide a second location for dog owners to let their dogs roam leash-free.

The council has discussed six potential issues in the past if an off-leash trail in Big Gulch were to be made available.

The first problem would be that off-leash dogs may be at risk of injuring other dogs or predators. It’s a problem Mukilteo has faced many times before, notably, an incident that occurred last year at the Japanese Gulch when an off-leash dog attacked a Mukilteo resident’s dog.

The next set of problems of having an off-leash trail are that there could be potential harm to humans and to the environment. This could eventually lead to a danger to the wildlife and other dogs.

An increase in the amount of unmanaged dog waste is the next issue the council believes could occur.

The last two issues that arise from creating an off-leash trail are dogs might not stay on the trail, and there is an undetermined amount of funding required for a new sign to indicate if the trail is off-leash.

The council previously discussed three alternatives to solve these issues: do nothing (the recommended staff action), creating designated off-leash days at Big Gulch, or creating a designated off-leash trail in Big Gulch.

Mukilteo’s Animal Control Officer Shanita Duke spoke at the worksession, and emphasized that dogs have a body language of their own and could attack another dog if owners aren’t careful.

“It’s a bad idea. You’re not your dog,” she said.

Duke added that another big concern is liability of citizens.

If an attack happens, people could simply take their dog and leave, allowing no repercussions for those involved in the attack.

“In that open environment, I think it’s a really bad idea,” Duke said. “It’s a huge liability for the people in the gulch.”

With no repercussions, the police would eventually conduct their own investigation. However, it would be a hard task with no leads, making the investigation hard to conclude.

Mukilteo Police Chief Cheol Kang, who was also present at the worksession, questioned the safety of some citizens who live near the trail.

“It’s not as remote as it used to be,” said Kang. “Utilization increased to what it was before. You’re going to run into someone out there with an animal.”

Councilmember Richard Emery found that the issues presented mirrors the incident that happened last year at the Japanese Gulch. However, he believes that adding a trail in the Big Gulch is still possible.

“There’s always a potential for conflict,” said Emery. “I’m unsure if one solution will fit all.”

Councilmember Scott Whelpley added that in the last four years there have been 15 reports of dog bites in Mukilteo.

Whelpley advised that problems surrounding off-leash dogs and dog attacks should be fixed or there would be bigger consequences in the future.

Councilmembers agreed to take no action for the time being, and the council may possibly discuss the issue further in the upcoming year.






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