DEL MAR — Council members advanced plans at the May 20 meeting to make the tot lot and a small grassy area of Powerhouse Park an animal-free zone.
Council first discussed the issue of prohibiting dogs in those areas at the April 15 meeting following a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Committee that was prompted by a resident request.
Rick Ehrenfeld said he was inspired by a similar law in Los Angeles that ensures children don’t play on the same grass where dogs relieve themselves.
“There’s a problem here that we’ve got in terms of both health and safety when you mix dogs and kids,” Ehrenfeld said at the April meeting, during which council directed staff to return with a draft ordinance that would prohibit dogs and establish a “family friendly zone” at the tot lot and in a southern portion of Powerhouse Park.
No one opposed the proposed new law in April. But at the May meeting, resident Lynn Gaylord expressed concerns.
“This ordinance is redundant,” she said. “There is a leash law in effect for this area.” Gaylord had issues with pictures presented at the April meeting of a dog on a picnic table and dog feces.
“I don’t know that you can legislate common sense,” she said. “Who in the world would put a dog on a picnic table? I mean, that’s just stupid. If your dog is on a leash and you don’t pick up its droppings you ought to get nailed by somebody.”
Gaylord also took offense to some of the language in the draft ordinance.
“I was sorry to see this ordinance labeled ‘dog-free, family-friendly zone,’” she said. “On a very fundamental level most people consider their dogs family. You can restrict dogs but don’t make assumptions about family-friendly.”
She and former Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said the new law also doesn’t address other animals.
“Have you figured out how to put the ground squirrels, seagulls and pelicans on restriction, too?” Gaylord asked. “No one’s picking up after them.”
“Are cats OK?” Crawford asked. “Is it OK for someone to bring their pony to the tot lot?”
Both women also questioned one aspect of the new law that states it will limit the spread of germs and disease.
But Councilman Don Mosier, who holds medical and doctorate degrees, refuted their claims that the statement isn’t true.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most countries other than the United States collect data on diseases that are transmitted between dogs, cats and humans, Mosier said.
“There’s lots of data that suggests pets, including family pets, do transmit diseases,” he said.
“Our goal … is to protect the public safety,” he said. “Most of our citizens are healthy and well-behaved and probably don’t need our assistance in protecting them.
“But I support this measure because I think it’s important to protect everyone,” he said, including young children and a growing population of people who are more susceptible to infectious diseases, such as cancer and AIDS patients.
His colleagues agreed.
“This is one small area that would be restricted,” Councilwoman Sherryl Parks said. “I’ve been down at that tot lot when it is jam packed.
“Eliminating the dogs from that area would, in fact, make it easier for young families,” she added. “I don’t feel it would be unfair or unreasonable to have one place in the city that is restricted.”
“We’ve given dogs a lot of rights in our city, a lot of places to go,” Councilwoman Lee Haydu said. “There’s plenty of places for families and dogs.”
Mayor Terry Sinnott called the ordinance “reasonable and balanced.”
Council members unanimously adopted the first reading of the draft ordinance, but instructed staff to delete the words “family-friendly” and replace the word “dog” with “pets” when it is returned for adoption at the second reading, likely at the June 3 meeting.
The new law will go into effect 30 days after that.