DEL MAR — Council members took another “paws”-itive step forward in expanding off-leash dog hours at city beaches, approving the introduction of an ordinance at the Aug. 6 meeting with a 4-0 vote, with Ellie Haviland absent.
But owners can’t let their canines run untethered for another few months. The modified rules won’t take effect until Oct. 4, after the final adoption slated for Sept. 4 and a 30-day wait period for education and outreach.
The adjusted law is making minimal changes. Dogs will be allowed to run off leash from dawn until 8 a.m. from 29th Street north to the Solana Beach border year-round and between 25th and 29th streets during the off season, from the day after Labor Day through June 15.
On the enforcement side, there will be a requirement for owners to exchange information after a bite whether the animal is leashed or not. The new rules also allow enforcement penalties for violations.
Resident Eunjee Viscardi, who in the past said she was attacked by dogs and verbally assaulted by some owners, was the only person who opposed the changes.
“I’m very sad (with the) ordinance you came out with,” she said. “It’s not safe. And it’s a health issue. … Somebody will get hurt. Owners cannot control running dogs.”
Viscardi, who said the way the issue was handled made her “look like a villain,” also said the new rules are too vague. She suggested using a specific start time, such as 6 a.m.
Councilman Dave Druker said signage must be simple and easy to read. He also has concerns about compliance.
“Right now, the people are treating the beach as being leash-free, period,” he said. “This is a huge enforcement issue. Us changing this isn’t going to change the enforcement of this.
“I’m not going to say we shouldn’t do this,” Druker added. “I’m just saying this is not going to solve any problem unless we’re going to demand that people not have their dogs on the beach in the summer months except north of 29th Street. … This is not going to be a simple task.”
“We’re never going to have perfect enforcement,” Mayor Dwight Worden said. “We don’t on anything else.”
Councilman Terry Sinnott said city officials should re-evaluate the program in a year.
“If this isn’t done well by the city and the dog owners they may, in a year’s time, lose the privilege totally,” he said.
Dog owners initially asked to expand off-leash dog hours in other areas but council declined to do so because it would have required a permit from the California Coastal Commission.
Until the new law takes effect in October, the following existing rules remain in place.
North Beach — 29th Street to the Solana Beach border
Dogs must be leashed June 16 through Labor Day. Unleashed dogs can run under voice-control between the day after Labor Day through June 15.
Main Beach — Northern end of Powerhouse Park to 29th Street
No dogs are allowed June 16 through Labor Day. Leashed canines are allowed the day after Labor Day through June 15.
South Beach — Powerhouse Park south to the Torrey Pines State Beach border at 6th Street
Dogs must be leashed year-round.