Leashed dogs will be OK on parts of beaches

SOLANA BEACH — Leashed dogs will soon be allowed on the north and south ends of the city’s beach, but not on or near Fletcher Cove, after council members unanimously approved the introduction of a new law at the May 28 meeting.

Following a request from residents to permit canines on the coastline, council members last July authorized a study to determine if it would have any environmental impacts.

David Winkler, one of the residents who made the request, asked council to consider allowing dogs on the area north of Tide Park so they and their owners could safely reach Cardiff State Beach, where leashed pooches are permitted.

He said the only other way to get there was along Coast Highway 101, an unsafe route because it currently lacks a sidewalk.

However, the study was conducted based on allowing dogs along the entire nearly two-mile stretch of beach all year from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. the rest of the time.

Results presented May 28 indicate there would be no negative impacts to the beach or water under those conditions.

Council members sympathized with people who are either afraid of dogs or simply want to enjoy going to a dog-free beach.

For that reason, the law limits the pets to the beach areas north of Tide Park and south of the Del Mar Shores stairway.

The latter means dogs and their owners can legally access Del Mar’s dog beach, where leashed and unleashed pooches are permitted depending on the time of year.

They will prohibited at Fletcher Cove, the city’s most popular beach, throughout the year.

“We do need to provide an area for people who don’t want to be near dogs,” Councilman Dave Zito said.

Because most owners walk their pets early in the morning, when beaches are fairly empty, council did not set any time restrictions.

There were also concerns that enforcement could detract lifeguards from their primary responsibility.

“We don’t want to create situations where the lifeguards are forced to take their eyes off the water,” said resident Gerri Retman-Opper, who supports the new law. Her husband also made a request last year to allow dogs on beaches.

Lifeguard Capt. Craig Miller said last year he and his colleagues notified about 2,000 people who were walking their dogs on the beach that the activity is illegal.

He said 95 percent of the people respectfully complied. Each contact took one to two minutes.

Of the nine people who addressed council May 28, six supported the ordinance. The three who didn’t had concerns about owners not picking up after their pets, safety and compliance.

“If you think people are going to obey your leash law, well you’re nuts,” John Metzger said.

Of the 20 emails sent to the city on the issue, only one opposed the law.

“Good heavens, what a horrible suggestion!” Robert Small wrote. “Has the council lost their collective minds?”

Dogs must be on a maximum 6-foot leash at all times. The law will take effect 30 days after the second reading, which should take place this month.

Tethered canines are also permitted at the Community Center and Fletcher Cove parking lot and viewpoint from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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