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To the Dogs: Santa Monica Will Create Pilot Program for Off-Leash Beach Area

Photo of Rosie's Dog Beach by howard-f via the LAist Featured Photos pool
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A Santa Monica non-profit has been sitting up and begging for an off-leash dog beach for some time, and now they "have been thrown a bone," quips The Santa Monica Daily Press. Today, Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and City Councilman Terry O'Day are expected to "direct city staff to work with California State Parks on the creation of a pilot program for an off-leash dog area that would stretch from the beach down to the waterline."

The news is a treat to Unleash the Beach, who have been campaigning for a seaside place for pooches to roam freely for several years.

The City would work with Unleash the Beach, and Heal the Bay, in order to monitor the pilot program, during which time the sand and water would be checked for "any adverse environmental effects." Concerns about water quality and other beach-goers is significant enough to have the City proceeding cautiously, hence the pilot program.

It sounds simple, however as the SMDP points out, there is a lot of red tape holding the unleashing back:

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A California code prohibits unleashed dogs on state beaches without an order from a California State Parks superintendent. Officials with the agency, which owns Santa Monica State Beach, have opposed any efforts by City Hall, which manages the beach, to ease rules and allow dogs on the sand. Opponents say dogs can disrupt the experience of beach-goers, destroy sensitive habitat and bite people, exposing City Hall to lawsuits. And if that wasn't enough, there are those who worry that dog feces left on the beach will negatively impact water quality.

There are over 60 beaches in California that are dog-friendly, and a 2006 state report finds that "there has been no evidence of higher bacteria levels or other water quality problems relative to other city beaches." Of those 60 beaches, however, there is only one in L.A. County, Long Beach's Rosie's Dog Beach.

Santa Monica's pilot program will likely be in a small section of sand, and will have restricted hours of usage. Long-term plans supported by Heal the Bay would involve the dog beach being in a fenced-off area.