Environment & Science

Hold on to your leashes: LA County cracking down on dogs on the beach

Dogs are not allowed on Los Angeles County run beaches. A task force has been formed to crack down on this and other beach violations.
Dogs are not allowed on Los Angeles County run beaches. A task force has been formed to crack down on this and other beach violations.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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A code enforcement task force will be roaming beaches in Los Angeles county, cracking down on the number of dogs that illegally romp around, among other problems, according to Department of Beaches and Harbors.

"You may get complaints from constituents who have for years, let their dogs loose on the beach, because we are focusing on that," warned Carol Baker, division chief for the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbors, during a Beach Commission meeting Wednesday.

It's part of an effort to keep the waters environmentally healthy, she said.

Dogs that poop or pee on the beach can contribute to bacteria levels detected at county beaches.

Water quality experts measure pollutants in water bodies using something called the total maximum daily loads. Storm water runoff affects those numbers.

Topanga Beach peaked in 2011 with 85 violations of that maximum, according to the Heal The Bay's website. In 2012, there 35 violations and in 2014, there were only six.

Beach Commissioner Rosi Dagit, a biologist with the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains said going after people who walk their dogs on the beach and don't pick up after them could help keep the county from reaching high bacteria levels that could result in a fine.

“One extra dog poo can be what causes an exceedance - tips you over the edge,” she said.

Dogs are not allowed on L.A. County beaches but pet owners bring them anyway, at no consequence most times. Lifeguards can warn pet owners and ask them take their dog off the beach, but L.A. County Lifeguard Chief Steve Moseley said people often respond by claiming their pet is service dog.

“At the time they identify it as a service guard, we as a lifeguard, that’s as far as we can go,” he said.

The county’s new beach code enforcement team - organized by Dept. of Beaches and Harbors - is about 12 people. Dogs aren't it's only - or even main focus. It was created mainly to cite businesses that run surf or summer camps at the beach without a license from the county.

“There may be a large organized swim with huge numbers of people in the water with only one lifeguard,” Baker said.

If they were licensed, the county would provide the appropriate number of lifeguards, she said.