Off-Leash Beaches: Good Or Bad?

Dog owners feel their best friends should have access to beaches, too. Photo Credit: Jordy Silva, Dreamstime

(LIFE WITH PETS) CALIFORNIA — As some Southern California beaches close their borders to dogs, lawmakers and lobby groups in Santa Cruz propose to make some of their beaches open to off-leash dogs for several hours of the day. While people agree pups deserve to enjoy a little natural beauty, many are asking what this will mean for the safety and security for both residents and animals alike. Read more to find out what off-leash laws could mean for Santa Cruz. — Global Animal
Dog owners feel their best friends should have access to beaches, too. Photo Credit: Jordy Silva, Dreamstime
Dog owners feel their best friends should have access to beaches, too. Photo Credit: Jordy Silva, Dreamstime

The Californian, Jessica M. Pasko

A proposal that would allow off-leash hours at some beaches in the county has residents fighting like cats and dogs.

More than 30 residents spoke during a board meeting Monday of the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter to air their opinions on the issue, one that has been heavily divisive.

Melanie Sobel, the shelter’s general manager, presented a proposal to allow dogs off-leash from sunrise to 10 a.m. all year round at the 20th Street beach in Live Oak and Dolphin at Sumner Beach in Aptos. Dogs would also be allowed there off-leash after 4 p.m. until sunset from Oct. 1 to April 1. Additionally, animal shelter officials proposed allowing dogs off-leash from sunrise to sunset year-round at Sunny Cove Beach.

“What we are proposing is not an anomaly,” said Sobel, who cited her previous work Chicago helping to establish a popular dog beach on Lake Michigan.

A group called Live Oak Off-Leash Advocates has pushed for the changes, arguing dog owners make up a large part of the community.

Todd Stosuy, field services manager for the county Animal Shelter, said he believes having specified off-leash hours would make it easier for officials to enforce the regulations.

Those opposed to off-leash hours warned of negative affects to the environment and marine life, as well as to families and children. They also worry about dogs dirtying the county’s beaches.

“Off-leash dogs and the public don’t mix,” Peggy Pollard, a Santa Cruz resident, said. “It’s not safe.”

Pollard, who has long opposed a push to allow off-leash dogs at the state-owned Lighthouse Field and adjacent Its Beach in Santa Cruz, worries people won’t obey the rules. Opponents also argued allowing the proposal would be akin to taking the beach away from the rest of the public. They also say the proposed times for off-leash hours overlap with popular times for residents to use the beaches.

Those in favor argue dogs deserve to have access.

“I’m a long-time resident of Santa Cruz County and so is my dog,” Bryan Hackett, a Santa Cruz defense attorney, said. “Although I don’t have empirical evidence, in my experience, I’ve seen more damage caused to beaches by people than dogs.”

The board chose not to take action on the proposal, citing a variety of concerns over environmental impact, a need for further information and more evaluation. The issue was tabled until the board’s next meeting, June 11.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter @jmpasko96

More Californian:



  1. We have a few dog beaches here in Florida where I live. I take my dogs out there every once in awhile. At first I was afraid to let them go offleash for fear they would try to swim across the gulf to Mexico. Or they would simply run off and never come back. Neither has ever happened, and really it is no different than taking them to a dog park to socialize. I’ve never seen nor heard of anyone being attacked. What I do know is that our beaches that are designated “Dog Beaches” are only used by dog lovers and dog owners. So hopefully California will do the same.