DEL MAR — In response to a petition containing nearly 1,400 signatures, council members at the Aug. 7 meeting agreed to extend off-leash dog hours on parts of some city beaches.
Once the new rules are adopted — most likely no earlier than November — canines will be allowed untethered on the beach north of 20th Street to the river mouth and leashed north of Seagrove Park to 20th year-round from dawn until 8 a.m.
Under the current law, off-leash dogs are permitted in the North Beach area, from 29th Street to the Solana Beach border, from the day after Labor Day through June 15, although they must be under the voice control of their owners.
Leashed canines are allowed in that area from June 16 through Labor Day and year-round from Powerhouse Park south to the Torrey Pines State Beach border at Sixth Street.
In the main beach area, from the northern end of Powerhouse Park to 29th Street, all dogs are prohibited from June 16 through Labor Day, and they must be tethered the rest of the year.
The petition, submitted by Scott MacDonald, Dan Quirk and Lynn Gaylord, also sought a 45-day moratorium on enforcement in the newly designated off-leash areas from dawn until 8 a.m., but the city attorney advised against that.
City Manager Scott Huth said staff members who write tickets — the park ranger and lifeguards — generally are not on the beach before 8 a.m. and limited complaints about unleashed dogs wouldn’t warrant changes.
If there is a problem, such as an attack, consistent barking or other blatant violations, enforcement officers would be deployed earlier and owners will be cited, Huth said.
To say the proposal wasn’t “paws”itively received would be barking up the wrong tree. Between the time the petition was submitted and the meeting, another 100 signatures had been added, bringing the total to more than 1,500, according to MacDonald.
The city received approximately 80 emails all backing the new hours. Of the 21 people who submitted speaker slips at the meeting, 18 were in support, although only nine chose to speak.
Displaying their fair share of anthropomorphism, many who weighed in shared their dogs’ names, included photos of their canines on the beach and signed emails from themselves and their pets.
Gaylord read a letter purportedly written by her dog.
“Woof, woof,” she read. “I thought you might like to hear from a dog just wonderful this item 11 is on your agenda. It really serves us Del Mar dogs hugely at this early hour.
“In exchange … I promise every morning I will go down to the beach, pee on a few rocks to make sure no cats think they are welcome down there and scope the sand for any leftovers from the night before which people might have dropped,” she added. “You know, trash. I don’t mind doing these chores at all.”
Nancy and David Doyle wrote that when they take their dogs to the beach, “There are smiles everywhere … both on the dogs and their people.”
Arie Spangler wrote that her dog Gretzky “literally squeals with joy when we approach the beach.”
“It is by far his favorite place in the entire world,” she wrote.
Janet Holcolm said she enjoys watching her dog run into the water, “bounding jumping, just absolutely enjoying his life.”
“It brings me so much happiness to start my day like that every day,” she said. “It’s incredible. It’s just like when you see a 6-month-old baby belly laugh. It just brings that emotion out in you.”
Eunjee Viscardi was one of three speakers who did not support extending the off-leash hours. She said she has been attacked by dogs more than once in the past three months.
And when she complained she said was verbally and physically assaulted by some dog owners.
“I am known to be crazy Asian bitch,” Viscardi said, adding that when the park ranger issued a citation he was “demonized.”
“We don’t hate dogs,” her husband, Anthony, said. “We like dogs, actually, quite a bit. When we first came here we didn’t even care that dogs were off leash. The whole problem started when my wife was being attacked by dogs, charging at her, knocking her down.”
Carol Gold, who cat sits for a beachfront homeowner, also does not support the changes. She said a dog came onto the property twice, one time entering the house, and terrified the feline.
The staff report noted a few issues with the changes.
“The greatest concern regarding expanded use of the beach by dogs is potential safety issues — both perceived and actual,” the report states. “Staff does hear concerns periodically from beach patrons who sometimes feel unsafe around the dogs, particularly when the dogs are off-leash.”
Dog-versus-human and dog-versus-dog interactions that cause injury occur each year at North Beach, especially when animals are allowed unleashed.
The report also noted potential issues with increased barking in the early morning hours and additional dog waste.
Proponents said most dog owners are responsible. They pick up after their pets and quiet them if they are barking too much. They also police other dog owners by letting them know if their animals are misbehaving or have just relieved themselves on the sand.
Additionally, dog owners also said they would reimburse the city for the estimated $2,500 it will cost for new signs.
A draft ordinance to amend the current rules will be presented for a first reading and public hearing, most likely next month when council returns from summer break.