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.
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.
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.