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Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
#56059 08/21/19 09:26 AM
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Well, just back from a couple days of hiking out of Onion Valley and want to share an interesting observation.

On Monday, I encountered a hiker just below the pass with a dog. I asked where she was heading and she responded, "Kearsarge Lakes." I mention that dogs are not allowed in the Nation Park. She responded by saying, the dog is a comfort dog, so it is okay.

I was flabbergasted.

And, the same situation on Tuesday with another hiker, with the same response.

I decided to stop by the Visitor's center on my way back home, but ran into two Forest Rangers, and they indicated that the only dogs allowed in the backcountry were guide dogs or service animals.

paul

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Paul #56062 08/21/19 11:35 AM
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comfort dogs seem unnecessary. the backcountry is already full of comfort marmots, comfort chipmunks, comfort mosquitos, comfort bears...

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Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
timisimaginary #56068 08/21/19 01:57 PM
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What it all comes down to is whether this “comfort dog” is actually a registered service animal.

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Paul #56074 08/22/19 07:48 AM
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Only seeing eye dogs should be allowed in parks, planes, or elsewhere. These comfort dogs are scams by people who can't bear to leave Fido at home or who are too cheap to pay for boarding. They are gaming the system.

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
RichardK #56079 08/22/19 03:38 PM
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The following is a response from Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Park regarding "comfort dogs."

Hello Paul,

Thank you for your interest in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks!

You are correct, only service dogs are allowed on trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP. Dogs that are considered therapy, comfort, or emotional support do meet the Federal guidelines for service animals. This is a very difficult thing to enforce. Please keep your own safety in mind before confronting anyone about their dog.

Thank you for reporting your experiences.

Have a wonderful day!

Sincerely,
Public Information Staff

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Paul #56085 08/23/19 09:08 AM
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The following is a response from Inyo National Forest out of Lone Pine regarding "comfort dogs."

****************************************

Hi Paul,

We have noticed the increase in visitors with pets that do not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act definition of a service animal.
On the Inyo National Forest side of the Sierra pets are allowed. We do inform visitors about the National Park policy on animals when they are issued a wilderness permit with a travel plan into the Parks.

*****************************************

So, is there a difference in understanding between the two entities?

paul

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Paul #56089 08/23/19 11:29 AM
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Paul,
National Parks and National Forests have very different rules, and dogs are just one. Guns can be carried in a National Park, but not "discharged". Hunting is allowed in National Forests.

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Steve C #56091 08/23/19 11:41 AM
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True Steve and I understand that logic, however, in my conversation with the Inyo Rangers as I descended from Kearsarge Pass, they, the rangers had firm ideas as to those with dogs heading into the National Park. Their views were the same as the national park. However, it seems the Inyo visitor center was different in their official response.

I have absolutely no problem with the National Forest rules, I am just tired of people claiming that they have a right, via having a comfort dog to enter the national Park.

paul

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Paul #56092 08/23/19 11:46 AM
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I don't think you got mixed answers from Inyo vs the trail rangers: Trail rangers were referring to the nearby backcountry and were probably thinking about the other side of Kearsarge Pass, which of course is SeKi. If you had pressed them to elaborate, backcountry in the National Forest vs National Parks, they would likely have given you the same info as your email from Inyo.

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Steve C #56093 08/23/19 12:11 PM
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No problem Steve. The comfort dog issue just irritates me. It's people using comfort dogs as an excuse.

paul

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Paul #59829 11/01/22 03:05 AM
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Interestingly, you observed this, and it seems like there is a discrepancy between what the hikers are saying and what the Rangers are saying. The hikers may not be aware of the regulations and misunderstand what they hear from the Rangers. It is also possible that the Rangers are not enforcing the regulations as strictly as they could be. If you are concerned about this issue, I recommend registering your dog on www.servicedogregistration.org and getting all the documents that your dog is a service one.

Last edited by nicholleiwaoka7; 11/01/22 03:06 AM.
Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
nicholleiwaoka7 #59831 11/01/22 11:51 AM
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There is no official registration for service dogs/animals. Those sites tend to be a money making scam (or sell the harnesses/cards to simply anyone). Here's the ADA FAQ page regarding service animals for more info (about this and what is/isn't a service animal as well as the legal implications): https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
tif #59832 11/02/22 08:55 AM
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What is the thought process for banning dogs?

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
BFR #59833 11/02/22 09:46 AM
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> What is the thought process for banning dogs?

For national parks: I think because some people are afraid of them; also, some will attack a stranger; also, some people unleash them, and then they chase the wildlife.

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
BFR #59835 11/06/22 10:02 AM
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Dog scofflaw here. Assuming the dogs are always leashed on the trails and they are not disease carriers, reasons against:

(1) Dog haters. You are ruining their wilderness experience with your stupid pet. Kind of ironic that, if they were alive today, "Dog Narcs" would swarm John Muir and his dog buddy Stickeen on his own damn trail! Also, early humans had dogs so I guess the "wilderness experience" is pre-human evolution.

(2) "Predator Scent" on the trail (a very small percent of the wilderness) dissuades criters from showing up on the trail to give you "high fives" on your epic hikes, thus reducing the wilderness experience. Then there is this "camera trap" study "https://news.ncsu.edu/2016/10/dog-human-effects-wildlife/": "“The bottom line of our work is that we have a ton of dogs using our parks, but most stay on-trail and don’t harass wildlife much".

My view:
Americans are FAT, American's dogs are FAT. Americans should be enticed to do exercise via "Exciting Big Walkies" with their dogs which is "killing two birds with one stone". It is much harder to con human friends into "going after work to do a 10,000 foot vertical mountain climb starting at midnight until our bodies feel like pain filled jelly and you are hallucinating from exhaustion and lack of sleep". Friend: "Nah, I'm good." Your dog:"LETS GO NOW!". So I am on the side of encouraging people's exercise vs weakly researched "environmental extremism".

Last edited by jaym; 11/06/22 02:56 PM.
Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
jaym #59876 02/23/23 10:56 AM
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Well,.... I have found that people that have a "pet", - showing them affection / petting them occasionally, feed them every once in a while, and take selfies to show their friends on social media are VERY DIFFERENT than an individual that actually have an animal for the right reasons. Responsible animal owners treat their animals as if they are family. Part of the responsibility is ensuring the animal (in this case dogs) are properly trained and obedient in the environment in which their person takes them. A lot of people that complain about animals, don't care for animals for whatever reason--and that is fine! If a person's animal is properly trained and behaved, it should not be a factor out there. The service dog subject / argument is getting so very lame lately and is being abused by irresponsible people.
I find I run into more rude, disgusting people on the trail than animals. I am bias, as I have had a four -legged creature in my life since childhood. I am retired now-and still have a four-legged creature in my life. I agree soooo much with Jaym's post. Half the people I ask to go hit the trail make excuses not to go. Seems to be lately, (more and more people- NOT EVERYBODY) but more and more people on the trail are there for the wrong reasons. Go hike a couple hundred feet with their "pet" to take a selfie. I'd rather take my four-legged trustworthy partner who is willing to go no matter the circumstance and will behave better than a lot of the irresponsible and disgusting human beings that are out there.

Happy hiking!

Last edited by DanoH; 02/23/23 02:19 PM.
Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
DanoH #59877 02/24/23 12:57 PM
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A year or so pre-COVID, I was headed up toward Mt Langley about 2km before the PCT intersection (I think) and I saw a dog trotting unleashed toward me. It was one of those aggressive dogs, not sure of the breed.

It stopped. I stopped. Then it growled and showed its teeth as it slowly approached me. I started to climb a tree.

Then, a pack of dogs of the same breed followed over the trail all off leash, along with the owner.

The owner seemed annoyed with me for 'trying to hide from the dog'. WTF?

They all passed me and went on their way.

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Years ago the Shepherds' Pass trail was closed to human exploration because the native species (sheep) had abandoned the area. Not saying it was due to irresponsible pet owners, but it very well could have been.

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When you sign a permit for Mt Whitney you have to agree that no pets are allowed into SEKI. It is one of those boxes you initial. Yet, some hikers ignore this.

Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
jaym #59914 03/19/23 07:54 PM
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The study you referenced only looked at dogs in a heavily-utilized state park in North Carolina, where the native wildlife is probably already habituated to the presence of humans and dogs. The SEKI backcountry is a totally different environment. Additionally, that study mentions evidence from Europe that dogs do have an impact on the wild fauna when they accompany their owners on hikes and camping trips. As for the “dog haters,” many of those who enjoy the SEKI wilderness are likely dog owners; they just chose to leave their dogs at home when they visit the backcountry. As for your argument regarding the early humans traveling through the wilderness with dogs, those dogs helped those humans hunt for food and helped protect against predators. Other than service dogs, any dog hiking with their owner is only there for their owner’s comfort and enjoyment.

I’ve found that the NPS backcountry rangers are friendly and courteous; however their demeanor swiftly changes when they come across someone blatantly violating the rules for backcountry travel like dog scofflaws like yourself. They do write citations with fines attached, they will escort you (and your dog) out of the wilderness, and your transgression will be noted in the park rangers end-of-season report.

There’s plenty of National Forest and BLM land surrounding SEKI where you can hike and camp with your dog.

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Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
Trapperjohn #59924 03/24/23 11:42 AM
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No, the study I mentioned was carried out in 5 states at 33 different protected areas.
The full study here:
https://www.ebparks.org/sites/defau...et_al_ecological_impact_of_dogs_2016.pdf

The study may reference other possibly contrasting studies in the introduction as related work but if you can point to the "smoking gun" European studies that would be great.

Personally, I think there should be a high bar before Federal Bureaucrats or the "Ban Kings/Ultra-Regulation" California bureaucrats make gestapo rules in a sort of environmental "dick-measuring contest".

I think true "dog lovers" will feel guilty going on a hike without their (fully capable) dog just because some scum bureaucrats on power trips. Dog stays home laying around bored getting fatter and fatter. Also, hikers go where they want to go.

I have never taken my dog deep into wilderness backcountry areas because I feel such a long-distance thru-type hike would be just too many miles for my dog. But, I could see people with ultra-athletic dogs (e.g. Iditarod level dogs) wanting to do this.

What I think sucks is rigid blanket rules over huge areas. Suppose leashed dogs effect certain wildlife in a specific part of a park and/or season, should you ban dogs year around in the whole huge park? Bureaucrats seem to love making restrictive blanket rules.

An example of this even extending anti-dog rules nationwide is the controversy over the National Park Service controlled Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an urban area park where the NPS inclination was for "uniformity" sake to start cracking down on dogs after decades of freedom. Luckily, they were beaten back.

A relevant example to this board is Mt Whitney. How much wilderness destruction would there be if dogs were allowed on the top 13,800 to 14,500 feet elevation part of the trail (aka 405 freeway of the Sierra)? Note that this part of the trail is only aound 1000 feet inside the National Park boundary.

In my previous post I mentioned two issues with dogs that I thought were important and could not be mitigated. The only way to completely eliminate "predator scent" is if your dog went in a "space suit" and of course, haters are going to hate.

Two more reasons that a land manager would want to totally ban dogs:

  • Jerks keep abusing the rules by letting their dogs run rampant off-leash harassing wildlife and hikers and not cleaning up after their dogs. "Sorry, the jerks ruined it for everybody".
  • Idiots keep needlessly getting their dogs in trouble where hurt and/or incapacitated dogs tie up already scarce resources for rescues. "Sorry, the idiots ruined it for everybody".


As for pesky rangers, I have been told that search and destroy missions for hikers with leashed dogs with rolls of poop bags on their leashes are not high on their priority list.

Last edited by jaym; 03/24/23 04:20 PM.
Re: Comfort Dogs in the Backcountry?
DanoH #59925 03/24/23 11:56 AM
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For responsible dog owners, taking your dog on a hike is not as easy as my previous post exaggerated.

If the terrain turns out to be too extreme for your dog, you have to abort. You need to do risk management to make sure you don't get your dog killed (as opposed to just your worthless ass). If your dog gets too tired, you have to turn around. You have to double your water and food in your pack. For example, if a hike recommends 6 liters of water, say hello to carrying 12 liters. Note that you could get your dog a backpack, but wheres the fun in that (for your dog)? If the weather becomes too warm when coming down the mountain (long haired dogs) then you may have rest in the shade until evening and wait for things to cool down. Etc.

Last edited by jaym; 03/24/23 12:01 PM.

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