Leash or Let Loose?

This December the Santa Cruz County Parks and Rec Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors explore a pilot program for off-leash access on Live Oak Beaches. Right now, taking a dog off-leash could result in a $300+ ticket. Since no one cares about politics so much as when it effects their daily life, or the life of their best (fury) friend, this is sure to be a defining political fight for many county residents’.

The vote was 3-1 with a couple of commissioners absent. The recommendation has not been put on the Supervisors’ agenda for a vote just yet, but the news has been the equivalent of saying W-A-L-K in front off-leash dog advocates and you can bet they won’t let Supervisor John Leopold rest till it makes the agenda.

The same commission voted against a similar proposal just a little over a year ago. That version would have just changed leash laws at 20th Avenue beach area aka 21st Avenue County Park. At the time, commissioner Mariah Roberts suggested that the group look into an off-leash permit process, where owners could pay a fee to the county if their dog meets certain safety criteria. The status of that suggestion is pending a response from the Commission.

The justification for the decision this time around seems to have come largely from the fact that other regions have off-leash dog beaches. For example, San Francisco’s Crissy Field, a popular tourist destination, has off-leash laws and a doggie “shower” for post-romp rinse offs. However, Crissy Field also is not on the Monterey National Marine Sanctuary, a designation which comes with greater restrictions.

Dogs run free at Crissy Field in San Francisco. From: http://www.bringfido.com/attraction/2237/

Regardless of the Board of Supervisor’s decision, the Coastal Commission would have to approve changes to the County’s General Plan and Local Coastal Program, which directs the County to protect shorebird nesting areas. Because of these potential effects, an environmental impact report to study the ordinance change could cost as much as $100,000.

Unleashed dog chases Great Blue Heron from its feeding spot at at Pleasure Point Beach (34th Avenue). llascc.weebly.com

Supporters, largely organized under LOOLA (Live Oak Off-Leash Advocates) say: “Daily vigorous exercise that includes unfettered play with other socialized dogs and games of fetch and frisbee are essential in maintaining the health of our dogs. We recognize the needs of others who would prefer to use the beach without dog interaction and feel that off-leash hours would be a fair compromise.”

Opponents cite the special considerations needed for wildlife along the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, the potential dangers of unsocialized dogs (a danger highlighted in the May, 2013 attack of a 5-year-old boy at Rio Del Mar), the particular danger to seniors for whom Live Oak beaches are home and for whom being bowled over by a blissed-out beach dog are a real threat, and the impact of increased dog feces.

What do you think? Try out our brand-new embeddable voting widget and register your opinion now.


Do You Want an Off-Leash Pilot Program?

The Santa Cruz County Parks Commission is recommending a pilot program that would allow dogs to run free on some county beaches.


  1. terri says:

    #1 it wasn’t “the same commission” that voted against a similar proposal…it was different commissioners that voted.
    #2 eir could cost as much as….what if it cost less than that or anything at all?
    #3 people pee in the ocean…ask a surfer what they do when the need arises. OR a boy. …the world is their urinal.
    #4 if we all lived our lives in the fear “of potential dangers” ….. I’m sorry. REALLY?
    #5 cats kill birds more often than dogs. So what if a dog chases a bird?
    #6 Lucky those ” seniors for whom Live Oak beaches are home” ! I don’t go. period.

  2. Hello Manu:

    Please allow me to correct some misstatements in this article.

    The Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission did not recommend “that the Board of Supervisors explore a pilot program for off-leash access on Live Oak Beaches.” The Commission passed a motion, on a 3-1 vote, to direct the Board of Supervisors “to consider an off-leash pilot program on a county beach.” There was only one Commissioner absent at this meeting.

    In an earlier meeting, the Commissioners did not vote against a similar motion, they took no action on a motion by LOOLA for a sunrise to sunset off-leash dog beach at 20th Avenue Beach, and directed County Parks staff to inventory Parks properties for possible off-leash areas, and to develop a set of criteria for the establishment of off-leash parks.

    There is no “21st Avenue County Park” and never has been.

    At that previous meeting, Commissioner Roberts did informally suggest the idea of an off-leash dog permit process. That idea was never submitted to the Commission for consideration, so it is not “pending a response from the Commission.”

    The quote from LOOLA is no longer in effect, as, in its last proposal, LOOLA asked for a sunrise to sunset off-leash beach at 20th Avenue, not restricted off-leash hours. Since the most recent proposal was not submitted to the Board of Supervisors, it is no longer in effect. The only idea submitted to the Supervisors is for an unspecified off-leash pilot program at an unspecified county beach.

    The organization supporting existing County leash laws on County beaches is Leash Law Advocates of Santa Cruz County (LLASCC http://llascc.weebly.com/) LLASCC does not single out unsocialized dogs as a threat to other dogs, wildlife and other beach users, nor do they single out seniors as particularly vulnerable to threats from unleashed dogs. LLASCC supports the current county leash law as the best means to insure the welfare of all dogs, to ensure public safety for all users of county parks and beaches, and to protect wildlife and its habitat throughout the county.

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