Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s bill to help local governments create dog parks for their residents passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee yesterday with broad bipartisan support and a vote of 9-0. The idea for the bill came from a local city councilmember, who expressed to Gatto that cities would open more dog parks, but for the liability concerns. Gatto’s AB 265 limits liability for cities and counties which operate dog parks and protects them from litigants who claim, for example, that they were unaware of the potential dangers (i.e., dog bites) that can occur at such parks.
“Dog parks help build safer and stronger communities by providing a location for neighbors to interact while training and socializing their dogs,” said Gatto. “We should not allow liability concerns to be a major barrier to creating these valuable spaces, especially in small- and medium-sized cities that cannot afford to self-insure.”
Jennifer Fearing of the Humane Society of the United States echoed the social importance of dog parks, especially for animal lovers with physical ailments. “Dog parks enable senior citizens and people with disabilities who cannot always walk their dogs a safe alternative,” said Fearing. “The Humane Society is glad for an opportunity to support a bill with the noble goal of nurturing the human-animal bond.”
There is precedent for the state stepping in to limit liability for the public good, especially for the use of public resources that come with some inherent danger. In 1997 the state imposed limited liability under certain circumstances for cities that open skate parks. State lawmakers reasoned that more recreation opportunities were needed, but that skateboarding is inherently dangerous, and should be done at the users’ risk and without massive liability for cities and their taxpayers.
“By offering our communities more sensible laws on this issue, I believe we can help make more dogs parks available in our neighborhoods, improving the lives of dog lovers and our canine companions.”
Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, and La Cañada Flintridge, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto