UPDATED: Neighbors Say Fertilizer Used in Precita Park Made Dogs Sick

Two Bernal Heights neighbors say their dogs became ill after visiting Precita Park last week, shortly after City workers applied a chemical to the grass.

In an email to D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, Neighbor Linda writes:

Last week, the day that fertilizer was applied to the grass in Precita Park, our dogs started foaming at the mouth and throwing up. My dog became seriously lethargic for 24 hours.

We need to know:

  1. What fertilizer was used? so that we can tell our veterinarians.
  2. What is the schedule for applying fertilizer on Precita Park grass and can it be posted in the park?
  3. How do we stop the use of this/these chemicals in Precita Park?

This must also be dangerous for babies and small children. It couldn’t be healthy for larger children and adults either.

I expect that the rain has diluted the chemicals for now, but Precita Park will get fertilizer again.

In a follow-up note to Supervisor Ronen, Neighbor Roman adds:

My dog Yogi went to the park around the same dates and has gotten very sick. He has been vomiting and foaming at the mouth. Please do advise us the type of fertilizer and if any new type of grass has been used to replace dry spots. We have taken our dog to surrounding parks and not encountered these issues. I will continue to ask other dog owners if they are experiencing similar issues. This is a major concern for us and we are taking this matter very seriously.

Supervisor Ronen says she will follow-up with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to learn more. Bernalwood will provide additional information as it becomes available.

UPDATE: 1:30 pm: Connie Chan from Rec and Park sent this response to Bernalwood:

The Department received feedback including possible concerns about dogs getting sick after visiting Precita Park last week.

Recently, the Department has roped off newly seeded areas in Park as these areas were re-seeded some time ago with standard grass mix, and the grass mix should not have any negative effect on humans and animals, including dogs. We have checked in with our park operations staff about their maintenance activities, and they confirmed that there were no fertilizer applications at the Park for well over a year.

It should also be noted that the Department utilizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) throughout our park system, which means we minimize any use of herbicide (and no rodenticide or any toxic chemical are allowed) and all herbicide application that meets the SF Environment regulations would be posted at the site for public notice and documented in our records. Here is more info on IPM from SF Environment.

However, with abundance of precaution, we are still looking into our maintenance activities last week and would welcome any input from the public on any incidents that they might have possibly witnessed and believed to be related. At this point, the only other maintenance activity of note that was occurring at the park, was our spring irrigation system tune-up. We will be inspecting the Park this week to see if we can identify any potential hazards that could be related to this incident.

PHOTO: Magic, one of the dogs that recently became ill. Image of Magic shown in Precita Park prior to the sickness incident, courtesy of Neighbor Linda.

25 thoughts on “UPDATED: Neighbors Say Fertilizer Used in Precita Park Made Dogs Sick

  1. The Parks Department refuses to limit itself to organic fertilizers which are safe for wildlife. The Sierra Club or another non-profit should bring a lawsuit against the city. Various neighborhood groups have tried unsuccessfully to get the parks department to stopo using cancer causing poisons on plants and pests in the parks. Our native species park should never require fertilizers or insecticides – ever. This is an outrage.

  2. I do NOT understand why we can’t rein in this out-of-control Rec and Park Dept.!! The pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers that none of us would ever use in our homes and yards, because they are POISONS, and unsafe for everyone, but particularly for children and pets, should not be used in public parks! This makes me so angry!

    • Agreed. If these pesticides are so powerful they caused two dogs to foam at the mouth, what would they do to children? Best case they get a rash. Worst case they end up in the hospital.

      • The City of San Francisco does not allow its staff to use products that “none of us would ever use in our homes and yards”. In fact, you can buy more toxic baits at Lowes on Bayshore than are available to city staff. They wouldn’t carry the products at Lowes if they didn’t sell.

        We have an award winning Integrated Pest Management Program that is run by the San Francisco Department of Environment staff in the toxics reduction program. These are good, dedicated public servants doing their best to keep city services intact in a thoughtful and environmentally conscious way. They regulate all pesticide use by city departments. There is reporting to SF Environment as well as the County Agricultural Commissioner each month on pesticide use.

        Check out the City’s ordinance on Integrated Pest Management here: https://sfenvironment.org/article/pest-management-for-city-departments
        Here’s a short list of their accomplishments: https://sfenvironment.org/article/pesticide-use-trends-on-city-properties

        Read their list of available products, then walk down to Lowe’s and see what you can buy there. For example, the city does not use single-feed rat baits to protect birds and other predators, like coyotes. You can buy those rodenticides at Lowes. Your neighbors might use them, even if you can afford to only buy organic, etc.

    • I’m always amazed how good the parks look despite dog owners who don’t pick up their muck or think it’s ok to bag and leave by the side of the path, people who don’t collect their trash and those who walk past trash because it’s not their job to, incl letting their kids play around it rather than spending five seconds setting the right example. So before simply abusing Parks & Rec, let’s say the parks all look so good, you’re kids programs are affordable and appreciated, and thanks for investigating this poisoning matter, but obviously something has gone wrong to make these dogs sick!

    • It was stated that there weren’t any chemicals or fertilizers applied in the last year. Are you still mad? If so, why?

      • Exactly. Why the outrage at Rec and Park? They’re being communicative and doing due diligence. They are heavily regulated by the Department of the Environment regarding the products they can use in the parks.

    • It was stated that there weren’t any chemicals or fertilizers applied in the last year. Are you still mad? If so, why?

  3. A couple unusual things about the picture on this post. Magic, while very cute, appears to be off-leash in Precita Park. Isn’t that against the rules? The picture also seems oddly cropped to include the rear end of another park user. Not sure what that is all about? Sorry to hear about the dogs sicknesses. Why not fence in a dog run at the west end of Precita? That solution seems to work for the kids playground at the east end.

    • +1 for the fenced in dog run. I’ve been twice attacked by large dogs in the past and it’s a bit unnerving to walk through the park at certain times of day when all the dogs are running free.

      • The dog run should be under the Cesar Chavez / 101 exchange, not in Precita Park.

        People have ignored the ample on-leash signage (what is it, four signs? five?) in Precita Park for years.

        It used to be less annoying. But now so many off-leash scofflaws also have Chuck-it ball launchers. Their lazy asses not only don’t need to walk up to Bernal Hill in order to exercise their dogs. But they also don’t even have to exert the energy required to throw a ball these days. End result? The grass gets ruined way faster from all the dog skidding and changing direction.

        Doubt that’s true. Ask a Parks guy or gal if you see one. They know who is at fault. (Side note, they are ticketing off-leash scofflaws a lot more. I’ve seen it twice in the past few months. And I never once saw that before.)

        So, no don’t award bad behavior. If there is to be a dog run, put it somewhere reclaimed. Don’t subtract parkland to award selfish behavior.

    • I’ve heard requests for a fenced in dog area for years. I’d love to know what it would take to make that happen!

  4. Has anyone considered that maybe the dogs were illegally off leash and got into someone’s leftover picnic that they didn’t throw away? Or a weed brownie gone missing? Or just over eating grass while their owners aren’t paying attention and just threw up? It seems that since there is no evidence of chemicals being used, then people are wrongfully assuming the cause.

    • I’ve actually talked to the gardener at this park and he has a background in organic agriculture and permaculture. When I commented on how great the grass was looking, he was proud to inform me that it was without the use of any fertilizers or herbicides/pesticides. It seems through a lot of hard work hand weeding, proper water conservation and application, properly timed aeration practices, and selective closures of damaged turf areas one can actually create lush, beautiful grass-scapes without the use of any chemicals. People should ask and learn before they assume and are wrong.

  5. Grass needs water & fertilizer to grow. There is nothing “natural” or “organic” about lawns. If you want grass lawns in your parks, understand the input and maintenance required to keep it alive. Many Precita Park patrons also treat the park like a dog run, which prevents the elementary school across the street from using the lawn that is unfortunately a huge dog restroom. Given it’s use, I commend the Rec & Park gardener staff for managing to keep the grass at all.

  6. If dogs were getting sick due to an application of fertilizer, there would be dozens of sick dogs in the neighborhood. Also, when they do fertilize or replace the mulch, people definitely notice the smell. I’m interested in what the vets of these 2 dogs diagnosed. I’m also interested in how they are recovering.

  7. Duh – might the complaints have contacted rec and Park directly before asking our district Supervisor? Do you expect her to do everything? If you had a gas leak, would you call Supervisor Ronen, or PG&E first?

    • Yes you poor miserable clueless constituent. Its not like Ronen is there to actually represent you. Can’t you see she’s too busy doing favors for lobbyists, cutting backroom deals for friends and blocking new housing to be bothered with the likes of you and and your sick dog.

    • Thanks buck for pointing this out. District supervisors are a nice idea, but people should use their brains and contact city departments before going nuclear and calling their supe.

  8. I’m sorry to report that our dog Butch was there and threw up also. Am grateful to know what might have happened. Thanks Bernalwood and neighbors for the info.

  9. Dense human urban/industrial environments are not the best place for pets. It’s not just there quality of life but longevity. Mix that with an army of entitled and irresponsible owners who will blame anyone for their own ineptitude and voila. And if you’re breaking carefully crafted laws and endangering your pet you should be fined or worse…

Comments are closed.