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State Rejects Off-leash Dog Area on Santa Monica Beach  

By Lookout Staff

November 21, 2011 -- Reiterating the same concerns they expressed in 2005, State officials last week shot down Santa Monica's latest effort to establish an off-leash area for dogs on the beach.

State officials said an off-leash area posed a risk to threatened species and sensitive ecosystems, possibly posed a safety threat, could interfere or displace recreational users and posed health issues related to dog feces and urine in the water and sand.

"It was made clear that there was no chance for a pilot program to move forward at this time," Beach Administrator Judith Meister wrote in a report to the City Council dated November 14. "State Parks remains opposed to permitting any off-leash areas on State beaches.

"While this is disappointing news for dog beach advocates, staff have determined that further work on this issue will not result in a positive outcome as directed by the Council, given the State’s frank assessment of the likelihood of establishing a pilot dog beach."

The City Council on October 25 had directed staff to work with the State, as well as several interested stakeholders, to establish the parameters of the pilot program.

But the effort got no further than step one -- a telephone conference with key members of State Parks, Deputy Director of Operations Tony Perez and Southern Division Chief Ronny Clark, staff wrote in a report to the council.

"City staff engaged in a thorough and frank discussion with State Parks staff, exploring a range of possible options that might allow a pilot program in Santa Monica by exception," Meister wrote. "As a State agency, State Parks maintains a consistent policy for all State parklands and this applies to the current position of no off-leash dog beaches."

Santa Monica took an initial step to create an off-leash beach area when the council voted in January 2005 to allow unleashed dogs on an unfenced stretch of sand near the City’s northern border. (“Council Considers Allowing Dogs on Beaches,”January 13, 2005).

The vote came after a group of Santa Monica dog owners calling themselves Unleash the Beach gave City officials 2,500 signatures on petitions seeking a dog beach.

Although State law prohibits dogs -- leashed or unleashed -- on most state-owned beaches, such as Santa Monica's, they are permitted in a handful of municipalities, including Long Beach, Carmel and Santa Cruz.

The closest beach where dogs are legally allowed is the Dog Zone in Long Beach.


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