Gatto Bill Would Help Burbank Get Dog Park

Assemblyman Mike Gatto

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill today to help local governments create dog parks for their residents.  Under current law, cities often hesitate to open dog parks because dog parks can subject cities to massive liability from litigants who claim, for example, that they were unaware of the potential dangers (i.e., dog bites) that can occur at such parks.  Gatto’s AB 265 limits liability for cities and counties that operate dog parks.  Cities must post signs to warn users that they enter a dog park at their own risk, and, because most cities do not patrol dog parks, that the city is not responsible for injuries suffered by park goers or their pets.

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.  “Apparently, large cities and counties can ‘self-insure’ and absorb any potential liability,” said Gatto, “but for smaller and mid-size cities, the liability concerns are a major barrier to improving the lives of dog lovers.”

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.  Policymakers reasoned then that more recreation opportunities were needed, but that since skateboardingis inherently dangerous, it should be done at the users’ risk and without massive liability for cities and their taxpayers.

“By offering our communities a more sensible set of laws on this issue, we can help make more dogs parks available in more neighborhoods,” said Gatto.

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