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No dogs allowed on Phoenix trails in blazing heat

Bo, an Australian Shepherd dog belonging to Kim Leeds, walks on cement in Phoenix wearing special booties made for dogs on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Kim Leeds / Associated Press)
Bo, an Australian Shepherd dog belonging to Kim Leeds, walks on cement in Phoenix wearing special booties made for dogs on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Kim Leeds / Associated Press)
By Beatriz Costa-Lima Associated Press

PHOENIX – When the temperature spikes, Phoenix trails will stay open for man but not for man’s best friend.

City leaders on Thursday rejected a proposal to prohibit people from hiking in extreme heat, but they approved a rule banning dogs from the city’s 41 trails when the mercury climbs to 100 degrees.

The ban – a first for Phoenix, at least in modern times – took effect Friday.

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department was looking for ways to improve trail safety following several rescues and at least one death within city limits. But after strong objections to the proposed hiking ban, its board passed just the dog portion of the proposal as a compromise, department spokesman James Ritter said.

“Our goal and our duty is to meet what the taxpayers want,” Ritter said. “We weren’t there trying to strong-arm anyone.”

More than 20 members of the public signed up to speak on the hiking ban idea, and most were adamantly opposed.

“(People) wanna hike when they wanna hike, not when you’re telling them to go hike,” Tim Sierakougle told the board.

Many who spoke said they were experienced hikers who regularly take to the trails on hot days.

Ernest Martinez said he hikes every other day.

“I don’t think that is a practical or feasible approach. I don’t think the city of Phoenix has the resources to carry out that policy or enforce it,” Martinez said.

Ritter said the humane society was on board with the dog ban, and he didn’t think there was enough information out there about how hot surface temperatures can be unsafe for dogs.

Phoenix resident Steve Douglas, who visited South Mountain Park on Friday morning, agreed that the dog ban makes sense and said the hiker ban wouldn’t have.

“The dogs can’t speak for themselves, and they’re wearing fur coats,” Douglas said.

Douglas hikes roughly three to five times a week on city trails and recently hiked in 112 degrees. He stays safe by keeping hydrated and knowing his limits.

“A lot of it is acclimation,” he said. “It’s easier if you’re from here, know the heat and hike regularly.”

Also Thursday, the board voted to create a task force that will gather data and survey the public on hiking safety.

In the meantime, Ritter said, the department has education efforts to keep hikers safe, such as signs at trailheads and a program to educate hotel concierges so they can better inform out-of-town guests on hiking safety.

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