A Dispute Over Leash Laws Starts a Neighborhood Battle

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"Parks and Recreation's own records contain no complaints in the last two years about dogs with owners attacking other dogs or persons in the park."

Correspondence from residents of the Los Olivos neighborhood to Parks and Rec administrators dates from 2011. One thread running through the letters is that all this uproar is the result of one couple: Carolyn Smith and her ex-cop boyfriend, Dennis Lacki.

Attorney Tracey Westerhausen, an off-leash violator at Los Olivos, made this point in her letter.

"Until a pair of newcomers showed up in December, there wasn't any problem between off-leashers and leashers in the park. On the very first day, this couple was spotted in the park, she was on the phone incessantly, making sure anyone nearby knew that she was talking to the authorities . . .

"The woman, without provocation, shouted at a group of women, 'get your queer activity away from me.' Much, much worse: Another dog walker, who happens to be a Phoenix fireman, and who did not have his dog with him that day, approached the man, also to introduce himself and try to calm things down. The man threatened him with a gun. The police who responded did nothing."

(It is more accurate to say that the gun was flashed by Lacki. It was not drawn.)

The upshot of the conflict was the "Powell" memo, on behalf of James Burke, acting director of the Parks and Recreation board.

Because of "ongoing conflict prompting repeated complaint calls to Phoenix Police, Maricopa County Animal Control, Parks and Recreation Department and City Council staff . . ."

The bureaucrats yielded to police requests to "prohibit unrestrained dogs in Los Olivos Park to streamline the enforcement process and further emphasize the expectation of compliance."

Parks and Recreation staff recommended "temporary prohibition of unrestrained dogs" for six months.

Three and a half years later, the temporary ban still is in effect.

Let's be clear: The off-leash dog walkers argue that they were obeying the law. Their certified dogs were off leash for further training, which is exactly what the statute permits.

Perhaps now would be a good time to meet Willard Bailey, the man who created the law.

Bailey is a dog trainer who crafted the current laws for off-leash activity in Phoenix.

He doesn't much care for you or your dog.

Or as he puts it: "If you train outdoors in a city park or any other large area of inviting grass, you know the scenario. The person with her dog off leash may be 200 yards away — if you're lucky — but you know . . . that dog is going to break away and come charging into your training setup . . . pausing only long enough to pee on your equipment. And 100 yards behind, here comes the woman, lumbering along shouting, "He's friendly! He's friendly!

"That's swell, lady, but when Adonis gets here, my dog is going to excise his Adam's apple."

His vocabulary of lethal mayhem is not accidental. He describes going to PetSmart the same way.

Bailey arrived at PetSmart to introduce his mutt to training. He arrived with two signs. Each read: "Please don't pet me. I'm practicing obedience."

Wrote Bailey in his blog, "Not that that will stop Brunhilde from lumbering over so that 'Tootsie,' her 100-pound Rottweiler, can meet my puppy and thereby risk excision of her dog's Adam's apple."

This is Bailey's worldview: Some overweight and overwrought woman has lost control of her sissies. You can tell they're sissies because they are named Adonis and Tootsie.

And the sissies are about to be killed by his well-trained Wehrmacht hound: 'Heel, Barbarossa, heel!'

Bailey may be an authoritarian misogynist, but if so, he is one that knows how to work City Hall.

In 2004, he got a call from a friend in the police department.

Was Bailey aware that the city had passed an emergency measure requiring all dogs to be on leash in all city parks at all times?

How could Bailey earn a living training Adonis and Tootsie if they had to be on leashes?

Bailey consulted a friend, Billie Rosen, whom he describes on his blog as the "godmother of agility in our state." (This is a reference to dog agility, not Gabby Douglas.)

Rosen also is a former prosecutor with the Arizona Attorney General's Office who was so good at nailing Medicare fraud, Hell's Angels, the Mexican Mafia, and chop-shop sleazes that someone tried to kill her.

She told Bailey: "Willard, get the law changed."

And to Bailey's credit, he did get it changed. He worked with park rangers as well as the Parks and Rec board. He lobbied, he researched, he packed meetings.

It took him more than three years, but with Rosen on his steering committee, Bailey changed the law.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey