County Leash Laws Challenged at Local Beaches

County dog owners seek to change County leash laws to allow off-leash hours at local beaches.

There's nothing like a quiet walk on the beach to settle nerves jangled by the daily commute, office politics, disturbing news of far-off political intrigue. The rhythmic swoosh of the waves, the cries of seagulls, the gentle ocean breezes. 

But wait. What's that smell? Eeeeeew!

All too often, idyllic walks along our local beaches are disrupted by loud barking, the threatening rush of bright teeth and furry bodies, the unexpected presence of smelly dog droppings underfoot. Our beaches have become playgrounds and toilets for unleashed dogs, turning a treasure for all into an exclusive domain for the few.

Santa Cruz County Animal Services has recently started enforcing county leash laws, much to the consternation of local residents who have grown used to letting their dogs run free on local beaches, in the absence of county enforcement. This has resulted in a lobbying campaign by dog owners to encourage Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to provide off-leash hours at the Live Oak beach between 20th Avenue and Moran Lagoon. Proponents claim that their animals need freedom to run unfettered and that limited off-leash hours would not infringe on others' enjoyment of the beach.

Santa Cruz County has strict leash laws, Section 6.12 of County Code, directing residents to keep all dogs on leash on public property and facilities at all times, and prohibiting animal defecation on any public property or improved private property, other than that of the owner. These laws would have to be amended in order to allow off-leash hours at local beaches. 

But county leash laws are not the only consideration.

Dogs running free not only pose a threat to people but also drive off shorebirds and other wildlife on local beaches, which are governed by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Harassment of "any marine mammal, sea turtle, or bird within or above the Sanctuary" is prohibited by United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 15, Part 92.132 - Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities. MBNMS works in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to assist with enforcement.

At a recent constituent meeting by Supervisor John Leopold, opponents and proponents of off-leash hours at county beaches presented their cases. In response to a suggestion that the county provide off-leash dog parks where dog-owners can let their dogs run free in fenced enclosures, Supervisor Leopold pointed out that a dog park has been built at the new Chanticleer Avenue Park, on the West side of Chanticleer Avenue, about a quarter mile north of Capitola Road in Live Oak. However, the signs at the Chanticleer Park indicate that dogs are required to be on leash at all times in the Pet Exercise Area, as the split rail fence is inadequate to keep off-leash dogs contained within the park.

Rather than flouting existing leash laws and lobbying for special consideration by federal, state and county officials, local dog owners would do well to organize and help the county upgrade the Chanticleer Park facility to allow off-leash dogs, and to build and maintain additional dedicated off-leash facilities on county parks away from sensitive beaches. These areas would provide needed exercise and socialization for dogs and an opportunity for dog owners to gather and socialize, without threatening sensitive species or infringing on others who prefer their recreational opportunities dog-free.

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Michael A. Lewis December 19, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Hello Angela. How's Ezra these days? Anarchy does not mean everyone does anything they want to. That's chaos. Anarchy means we decide, in cooperation with our community, the rules that we all live by, for the greater good of the entire community. Mutual aid. One who rejects those rules, or attempts to make isolated decisions about which rules to follow, rejects the community and its greater good.
Jean December 19, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Steve Premo wrote: "That being said, since anarchists seek a stateless society, they tend not to give the laws of the state the same deference that a committed statist would give. That is, anarchists are not likely to feel that acting contrary to law is a wrong in itself." This statement, appearing as it does as fact, is not factual. I am very interested in and sympathetic to anarchy as a societal organizing principal and I have lived with an anarchist for over 12 years. This anarchist (and myself) give the laws of our community more respect than most. We drive within the speed limit (most do not), respecting our fellow citizens. When on our bikes, we stop at stop signs (most do not), signal our turns and drive with traffic (all DMV rules of the road). While bicycling, we stay off the sideWALKS, so pedestrians can be safe. We acknowledge and employ the various environmental protection laws also (Endangered Species Act as an example). And when our canine companions were alive, we kept them on leashes here in Santa Cruz County, which has a leash law ordinance, for the protection of both canines and humans. Saying that anarchists are not going to give laws (or rules) the same deference as "committed statists" is unsubstantiated speculation. I am committed to doing the right thing, no matter what my societal organization preference.
Steve Premo December 19, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Jean, is the anarchist to whom you refer Michael Lewis? He identifies as an anarchist? The mind boggles, as he seems to have argued that one has a moral duty to obey the law, in that the government has legitimate authority derived from the consent of the governed. He's the first anarchist I know of who takes such a stand, but I might be misunderstanding his position. I applaud you for your commitment to doing the right thing. I am also committed to doing the right thing. You and I may disagree on what constitutes the right thing to do under any given circumstances, but it is important to have good values and integrity, and to lead a morally impeccable life. I think we disagree on whether those who let dogs run free on the beach are doing the right thing. You have argued that it's wrong to break the law, while I believe that deference to the authority of the state is not a moral issue but a practical one. That being said, many laws do have moral force, but that is not because they are laws. It's wrong to hurt people without good cause whether one has a legal right to do so or not.
Michael A. Lewis December 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Steve: I have never said “one has a moral duty to obey the law, in that the government has legitimate authority derived from the consent of the governed.” What I have said is that none of us here live in an anarchist society, sad though that may be. We live in a representative republic. Since all of us here choose freely to live in this representative republic, we are bound by its social relationships, including the rules of this society that are codified in state laws. We are free to disagree with those laws and work toward changing those laws with which we disagree, but we are not free from those laws even though we think another way of governance would be better. This does not mean that the state has legitimate authority derived from the consent of the governed, especially in the United States, in which the representative republic has morphed into a corporate oligarchy. When we are all sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya in an anarchist community, we can decide amongst ourselves what the rules are and what are the consequences for flouting those rules. For now, we have to deal with the society in which we live and deal with the real world, not the world we wish it to be.
Brad Kava December 23, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Please no personal attacks. I will delete them. Let's be civil, here. Thanks.


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