Plans to create Los Angeles County's second dog beach in Santa Monica were squashed earlier this month. The state rejected a City Council approved pilot program to test a portion of the state-owned beach where dogs can run leash-free.
California law requires that dogs be leashed on state beaches unless permitted by a California State Parks superintendent. There is only one off-leash dog beach in L.A., and Orange County's Huntington Dog Beach is the only other legal off-leash beach in the area.
The state cited concerns including the potential threat to certain species, the habitat, other beach-goers and health concerns about dog feces and urine in the water in sand.
Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, wrote a blog post in favor of the decision, citing concerns similar to those of the state.
Santa Monica taxpayers have spent millions of dollars cleaning up local beaches (over $2.5 million on the successful Santa Monica Pier cleanup alone), so adding a new source of fecal bacteria to our local beaches doesn’t make any sense in these financially challenging times. Also, it makes even less sense from a Clean Water Act compliance perspective. Especially if we’re trying to protect the public from health risks. Swimming in waters with high fecal bacteria densities is highly correlated with illness, especially stomach flu.
However, a 2006 study of dog beaches showed that water and bacteria problems at the Huntington Beach Dog Beach were no worse than at other beaches.
Rosie's Dog Beach is the only off-leash stretch of coast for Los Angeles County pooches. The three-acre plot is marked off by bright orange cones and has ample trash receptacles to help owners keep the beach tidy.
Dogs have ruled the stretch of beach since June 2001 when local resident Justin Rudd began planning special doggy events. In 2004, after a year-long pilot program, the city council approved the official Dog Zone, later named in memory of Rosie the bulldog.
It was a beautiful weekend, so I took a ride over to the dog beach just before sunset. A few dozen dogs were frolicking with their owners in the sand and water. People clustered together as their dogs met and sniffed each other, for the most part keeping close eyes on their interactions.
There were tennis balls and frisbees, and a few dogs dared to swim in the ocean with their human companions.
Jina Kim of Harbor City has been taking Trix, her year-and-a-half-old terrier-poodle mix, to the beach for about two months. A self-proclaimed beach bum, she said it's one of her favorite places to take her pooch beacuse it's great for both of them. Trix stays out of the water, Kim said, but she likes to run around the perimeter of the area.
Rosie's can be pretty empty in the mornings, but it gets packed on the weekends, she said.
The beach is a lot more laid back than the local dog park, said Michelle Zaccaria of Long Beach. She's never had any problems with other owners or dogs, and Maeby, her terrier-poodle mix, has never gotten sick from going in the Long Beach water, she laughed.
Owners said there's a sense of community at Rosie's and people and their dogs are generally respectful of each other and of the beach. After all, they have a common interest.
The limit is one dog per adult, and they must be tagged, vaccinated and controllable. Owners are expected to clean up after their pups and to keep an eye on them as they play.
The beach cleared out as the sun went down, but a handful of dogs were still chasing tennis balls down the shore. Rosie's is open every day from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.