New Off-Leash Pilot Program Would be a Treat for Santa Monica Dog Owners

Dog owners were thrown a bone Tuesday evening as the Santa Monica City Council voted 6 to 1 to establish a pilot program for a dog park on Santa Monica State Beach.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Council member Terry O'Day requested that Santa Monica city staff work with California Sate Parks to establish an off-leash area for dogs along the coast line.

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While the news made supporters like Unleash the Beach sit up in excitement, the road to approval will be difficult as California code prohibits unleashed dogs on state beaches without an order from the California State Parks superintendent. California State Parks has vowed to oppose any efforts to relax the rules and allow dogs on the sand, according to the Daily Breeze.

The Santa Monica Mirror states that free-roaming dogs will be monitored both on the sand and in the water, and the city will potentially partner with Unleash the Beach and Heal the Bay to determine any potential social, health or environmental hazards.

A serious concern is the potential water quality issue that could develop due to dog feces polluting beach water, while lawsuits stemming from dog bites is also a possible problem.

"That's why we're suggesting a pilot program so we can study the effects," Davis said to the Santa Monica Daily Press. "We want to evaluate it and see if it makes sense on a permanent basis."

While the pilot program would evaluate the social and environmental impacts of unleashed dog areas on the beach, the Santa Monica Mirror reported that City Manager Rod Gould reminded council members that a study of 60 dog parks found that health and safety impacts were minimal to nonexistent.

A pilot program could include a small beach area with limited hours and restricted to weekdays, according to Georja Umano, founder of Unleash the Beach.

Although the only legal off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles County's 75-mile coast line is Rosie's Dog Beach in Long Beach, pet owners currently have options for their beach loving pups. Leo Carillo State Park in Malibu allows canines on a small portion of the beach provided that dogs are kept on a leash that is no longer than six feet.

The photo used in this post is by Flickr user mikebaird. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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