Note to NPS About Dogs in the Park

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Updated October 16th 2010

Hot Springs National Park Goat Rock Trail Leashing Dog

Feb 27 2010 Goat Rock Trail Leashing Dog

(Updated Mar 20 2010) I must begin by stating I LOVE DOGS, but I also LOVE and respect the wildlife that lives in our protected National Parks. I have been licked, cuddled and played with by many Dogs I have met on the trails. Most of whom have not been on leashes as the Park requires. I have also been snapped at and been the recipient of menacing grows, on one occasion several of us had to get off the path to keep from being bitten by two large dogs.

As most know I hike in the Hot Springs National Park almost daily and I would like to address the easiest way to prevent the declining wildlife in the park. Ban Dogs from the Park your, mission is to conserve the wildlife and the eco-system, it is not to provide a dog walking venue. Every week I encounter people with their dogs off leash, destroying natural habits by running off the trail sometimes at the encouragement of their owners. I also have to avoiding stepping in the deification Dogs leave behind because their human companions did not clean it up. The National Park Service Mission is “…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.


Hot Spring Mountain Trail Doggie Defication

Hot Spring Mountain Trail Doggie Defication

Please follow your own National Park Service recommendation: “The NPS offers several explanations as to why the presence of pets is regulated in the parks. Dogs, the most common traveling companion, are natural predators that may harass or even kill native wildlife which is protected within a park’s boundaries. Domestic dogs and cats also pose several threats to natural resources. They retain a primitive instinct to mark their territories with scent and can spread diseases to other wildlife. Many national parks include narrow trails, and since pets are sometimes hard to control, even on a leash, they may trample or dig up fragile vegetation. (TRAVELING WITH PETS TO NATIONAL PARKS) Your own statement is backed up by evidence presented in the New Scientist. “Peter Banks and Jessica Bryant from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, monitored bird life in woodlands just outside the city to assess the impact of dogs being walked there (Biology Letters, vol 3, p 611). They showed that bird life in areas frequented by dogs, even when kept on a lead, had 35 per cent less diversity and 41 per cent fewer birds overall. Areas with off-lead dogs seem to suffer even more: ongoing studies in the UK indicate that dogs are aiding the decline of some rare species of bird, such as European nightjars (Ibis, vol 149, p 27). (New Scientist)

Many hikers have indicated that over the past 20 years they have noticed a decline in the wildlife population within the park. A simple way to address this is to follow your own National Park Service rules and ban dogs from all Trails with the exception on the brick covered Promenade at the bottom of Hot Springs Mountain, the Arlington Lawn and the side walk along Bathhouse Row. Hot Springs is a NATIONAL PARK not a City park, please follow your own NPS rules.

Update: March 03 2010 I met 2 Tourist form Wisconsin on the Goat Rock Trail and they told me the following.  On the Saturday they arrived they tried to go hiking but the trail between the campground and Hot Springs was a constant flow of people walking big dogs.  They told me at least 50% were off leash.  Their waitress at Ruby Tuesday’s told them she regularly takes her 3 Great Danes into the Parks and lets them run free off leash.  They felt intimidated by having to share the trails with so many dogs, this is why they were taking one hike on the Wednesday I met them.  They also mentioned of all the Parks they had visited during their long camping adventure this park was one that seemed to have no wildlife.

Update: March 06 2010 On the Short Cut I was nearly knocked over by an 85 lb. Boxer who was off leash.  Although there was nothing vicious in the actions of the dog it could have easily hurt a child or elderly individual.  The woman hiking behind me left the trail and headed up the Hot Springs Mountain Road clearly not want to have the same contact with the dog.  No one should have to leave the trail because of a dog.  This large playful dog was also freely digging and roaming in the protected (using this term loosely) habitat of many small mammals. This is another reason I am an advocate for banning dogs from the Hot Springs National Park.

Update: March 07 2010

As I was focusing on a log I hear a loud bark and discovered I was being stared at by a Terrier without an owner.  I looked up the trail and saw I man up a head, the little dog ran to catch up but first stopped to mark the forest as his territory.  The man was carrying a leash he had no intention of using, unless he got caught.

Update: March 15 2010

I encountered a big Lab off leash and I reminded the couple walking him was a park rule to have your dog on a leash at all times. It was especially important with all the small children in the park. They looked a bit guilty and fastened the leash.

As I leaned over to photograph a wildflower I was charged by an on the loose Pomeranian, making an off leash dash up the trail. The owners were frantically calling and clapping, but the little dog kept running and was not captured until they were all at the top of the trail. Although it was a funny sight the little dog could have have been hurt if had darted off the edge of the path and down onto the rocks below.

Update: March 19 2010

From the Floral Trail I head to the Lower Dogwood and decided to head to the west end on the trail and hike to the Upper Dogwood.  I stopped to photograph a rock, as I was focusing I could hear growling and barking.  I look to my side to see a big dog coming toward me, it’s owners are far behind.  I yell out “excuse me your dog needs to be on a leash”.  When they catch up and grab their dog “Lucky” they tell me they did not think it mattered as they are alone on the trail.  I ask them again to put their dog on a leash, I advise them their dog is a predator and should not consider the park his territory.

Update: March 20 2010

Unfortunately the previously mentioned large 85 lb. boxer is not on a leash when he and his owner pass me on the trail.  The Boxer stops to dig next to me damaging the plants along the side of the trail.  Why do people see this place as a Dog Park instead of a protected National Park?  I believe it is in part due to the fact that many at the NPS Hot Springs see the park as ending at Bath House Row.  In the fourth month I have been hiking regularly in the park I have NEVER seen a Park Ranger above the Promenade. They stroll along central avenue in their uniforms instead of hiking in the park.

Update: September 10 2010

I had given up on photographing dogs off leash in the park, it seems no one really cares about their impact on the wildlife.  It appears as it cools off people are happy to let them run free again.  I was greeted by a couple of small dogs LONG before their human companions reached me.  These woman felt it was their right to let the dogs run free in the park… IT IS NOT A RIGHT!  When will Hot Springs National Park enforce it’s rules???? NEVER!!!!  Once I have photos of unleashed Dogs on every Mountain I will send my complaint to National Park headquarters as clearly they do no care locally.

Update: October 16 2010

Three Groups of joggers running on the Hots Springs Mountain Trail ALL with dogs off leash.  I was snarled and barked at even though I moved off the trail when I heard them coming.  I wonder when the National Park Headquarters will force the local administration to ENFORCE the existing regulations for dogs in the park.  Better yet banning all dogs from unpaved trails to protect the wildlife.  Yes that is a novel idea for local park officials to actually care about the welfare of the wildlife in Hot Springs National Park.  This is a NATIONAL PARK NOT A CITY DOG PARK! I have come to the conclusion I will have to take a print out of all the photos and this text to the National headquarters in DC when I am visiting this fall. Four loose dogs, who knows how many more were allowed free reign to hassle the wildlife and pollute their envioronment on other trail today. No one locally appears to pick up after their dogs messes, often the Goat Rock Trail looks like an unflushed toilet.

Update: November 04 2010

On the Short Cut Trail today the LARGE boxer was roaming free as it headed down the path at me.  The owner spotted me and did not realize I had already seen his dog off leash.  He grabbed his dog put it on a leash then walked past me as it the do dog had been on the leash all along.  Then when he got past me  he unhooked the leash, his dog going to hurt someone likely knocking them ov as it loves to run at people and then jump on them.


Hot Springs Mountain Trail Unleashed Dog October 16 2010

Feb 28 2010 Hot Springs Mountain Road Dog Off Leash

Feb 28 2010 Hot Springs Mountain Road Dog Off Leash


Short Cut Trail Large Boxer Off Leash

7 comments on “Note to NPS About Dogs in the Park

  1. Pingback: Sweet Chipmunks, Lovely Birds and a note to the NPS « Hike Our Planet: Hot Springs National Park

  2. We notice a lack of wildlife in the park. We use to see fox, rabbit & deer along with the various birds,
    but no longer. It is sad.

    • Hi Lovebirds,
      The only Rabbit I have seen was dead, I felt so sad I had never gotten to see it hopping aboout in the forest. Would love to see deer and fox too!
      Love to You Both
      Lee and Rick (you will see him when the weather warms up :o)

  3. Pingback: Secret View, Wildflowers, Lizards and Vandals « Hike Our Planet: Hot Springs National Park

  4. I would say I agree with this post. Dogs aren’t even natural predators. Coyotes are.

    We need to think about not only our own footprint in habitat, but also the footprint of our domesticated animals, and understand why it’s important to be mindful of how we impose on other living communities.


    Lee Hall

  5. Lee,

    I think part of the problem is that Hot Springs AR has not had an off leash dog park. People who lived in town did not have a place to go, so they were using the National Park. I saw a website for a Bark Park in your area & it said opening soon. So, I am not sure if it is open yet. I am not sure if this will help with the off leash issue completely, but it would help. As a person who loves to travel & hike with my dog, I would not like to see them banned from the park. I agree that they should be on leash though. There should be fines for owners having dogs off leash & for them not picking up after their dogs. No one should have to avoid trails, etc. because of someone else’s negligence with their dog.Some people are highly allergic to dogs & they would not be able to enjoy the park with the current state of affairs. And you cannot tell me that some tourists have not lost their dog(s) in the park before by having them off leash. It also seems to be a public education issue. People will keep doing what they have always done unless educated as to why they should change. I hope I am not offending you with my comments. I am always an advocate for people, wildlife & dogs finding ways to live & work together in harmony.
    Your friend,
    Cindy Puzio

    • Hi Cindy!
      Not offended at all, my concern is National Parks have a mandate to put wildlife in the park 1st above people and dogs. Dogs are not natural to the park and their presence causes many problems for the wildlife and other hikers. Dogs are first and foremost predators, as a dog lover I understand this fully. Even on a leash they mark territory and leave their scent. A marked Tree is a place a squirrel or bird will no longer shelter in or on until the mark has faded. My experience is some dogs are not suited even on a leash to the tight confine of many of the trails. Many dogs have BAD OWNERS who have not taught them socialization or territory skills. Some dogs believe wherever they are is their territory and they try to defend the trails as their turf.

      Dogs in the park reduce wildlife populations especially small mammals and birds. Their excrement and urination leave toxins that can be fatal to much of the wildlife. When I hike if a person passes me on average it will be another 10-15 min before wildlife reappears, a person with a dog 45-60 min depending on the number and sizes of the dogs. The park is not conducive to the additional predators brought in by humans. Dogs are prey for the wolves and bears and can even be killed by the many poisonous snakes and large Bucks protecting their herd. Many people who come into the park do not realize it has many wid animals that could confuse their pets with prey. I am always trying to educate but the NPS also needs to enforce the leash law.

      Several people I have spoken to about this in the park have chosen to stop bring dogs into the park and for that I am grateful.

      Kindest Thoughts and Wishes,

      Ps I sure hope the dog park opens soon!

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