The Santa Cruz Dog Leash Debate
Perhaps you’ve heard that there is a debate right now over whether to allow dogs off-leash on Santa Cruz County beaches. Currently, there are some beaches in the city of Santa Cruz that allow for off-leash dogs, such as Lighthouse and Its Beach. However, there are no county beaches that allow for off-leash access.
This question came to a head recently as the Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the Board of Supervisors explore an off-leash pilot program. The issue has traditionally inspired broad engagement, with proponents on one side arguing about the benefits of letting dogs run free on beaches – that this is an important outlet for them to exercise, play with other dogs, and in general to stay healthy. Opponents have raised concern about the environmental impact of dog feces, but also the risk of injury, especially to youth and seniors, from being bowled over by a sprinting canine.
Since this is an important local issue that will soon have its moment of truth before the Board of Supervisors, we at Civinomics did what we do best and created an online initiative on the topic, asking our members if they want an off leash pilot program for Live Oak beaches. Well, we appear to have struck a civic chord – to date, 141 votes have been cast on this issue. Roughly 80% of the votes are in favor, and, unsurprisingly, the area contributing the most votes is Live Oak, followed by the city of Santa Cruz.
On top of that, we’ve seen a hearty debate take place, with a total of 75 comments made so far. You’ve got those in favor advocating for the value of allowing dogs on beaches, both for their pet’s health, as well as the feeling of community that can result. And you’ve got those opposed, pointing out the potential environmental and safety hazards of letting dogs loose.
But unlike pretty much every other online political debate out there, this one is – dare I say – genuinely civil and constructive! The comments have helped broaden and inform the debate, people have responded to each other respectfully, overall creating an authentic discussion around this issue. And, people have shown a unique willingness to compromise, something hardly found in the halls of online political discourse.
Have you seen it for yourself? And while we’re at it, have you voted yet? If not we invite you to see what your fellow community members are saying and weigh in on the debate here:
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.