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    Dogs in the City

    zoeInstead of Sex in the City, I’d love to start a new series called Dogs in the City – the search for loving companionship in a town that is making it increasingly difficult to own and exercise your pet. This is a result of two major trends: the constricted housing market and the threatened shrinkage of off-leash dog areas. If you can overcome these obstacles, I have some recommendations for you on how to find an amazing canine companion or support an organization that does miraculous work here in San Francisco for “unadoptable” dogs!

    It’s no news to anyone here, and especially those trying to rent, that the overall inventory of available units in San Francisco is disappearing (and affordable units? Forget about it!). The demand for apartments in San Francisco is so high, landlords know they can ban pets and still find tenants. It breaks my heart to hear of people surrendering or even abandoning their cats and dogs because their new rental unit won’t allow pets. But it is a reality. Landlords see a household with a pet as potential for damage and not an indication of a trustworthy tenant that has taken on the responsibility of caring for an animal.

    My cursory research found estimates that show approximately 50% of SF rental units don’t allow any pets. The few that are “pet friendly” typically have limits as to the number or size and typically charge a significant pet deposit or additional rent. The size limit baffles me. As the guardian of an 11-year old, 80-lb. Golden Retriever that is the sweetest, quietest being on the planet (okay, I’m biased and you may challenge me on that), the weight of a pet seems such an odd proxy for their potential to damage property or annoy neighbors. Nothing against my friends with small dogs, but the propensity to bark, scratch or have accidents seems highly uncorrelated to the size of the animal.

    Just sayin’ . . .

    I hope the city is keeping an eye out for pet owners in this housing crunch and that we continue to look for ways to create incentives for landlords to allow pets (of all sizes) without extracting a king’s ransom.

    If you do have a dog and enjoy taking your furry friend to many of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) open areas like Fort Funston, you should know that many of these spaces are currently scheduled to be closed to off-leash dogs. In 2011 GGNRA issued its Dog Management Plan proposing that dogs should be kept out of parts of San Francisco’s Crissy Field, Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. It proposed cutting where dogs could walk off-leash (and on-leash too) by 90% compared to where they can walk, both on- and off-leash in the GGNRA today. GGNRA released a new version of its proposed Dog Management Plan last month and will be accepting public comment until December 4, 2013. Details can be found at If you want to maintain these spaces for your pooch, let your voice be heard! Supervisor Scott Wiener has called for a hearing at the Land Use and Economic Development Committee meeting on Monday, October 21st at 1:30 PM in City Hall room 263.

    If I haven’t scared you too much, and you still want to adopt a dog, I highly recommend considering a senior dog. Two years ago, Pam and I adopted Harley. She was 9 years old, nearly lame with a torn knee ligament and dumped off at a shelter because the owner was moving to the east coast. With a lot of love and some great medical care, she is now a happy, fully mobile dog and a major part of our family. Senior dogs sometimes have special health considerations, but they are usually trained, housebroken, mellow and grateful for a loving home. I’m a huge fan of Muttville senior dog rescue ( It was founded in 2007 by Sheri Franklin, a longtime animal advocate and rescue worker that created Muttville to change the way the world thinks about and treats older dogs and to create better lives for them through rescue, foster, adoption and hospice. I recommend you start there when looking for a furry friend!

    Let’s say you can’t have a dog, either because your housing situation doesn’t permit it or you can’t take on that kind of responsibility right now. You can get your doggie fix by volunteering. Muttville and other adoption organizations are always in need of people to help walk the dogs, provide foster care, or help staff an adoption event. If you don’t have the time to do that, a donation of any amount helps. “Like” Muttville on Facebook. Pick a dog in need and post it to your Timeline! By doing so, the power of social media within personal networks encourages others to adopt, donate, volunteer, and foster. Your actions can make a huge difference in a dog’s life.

    Zoe Dunning is a retired Navy Commander and was a lead activist in the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. She currently serves as the 1st Vice Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party.