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County Leash Laws Challenged at Local Beaches

County dog owners seek to change County leash laws to allow off-leash hours at local beaches.

There's nothing like a quiet walk on the beach to settle nerves jangled by the daily commute, office politics, disturbing news of far-off political intrigue. The rhythmic swoosh of the waves, the cries of seagulls, the gentle ocean breezes. 

But wait. What's that smell? Eeeeeew!

All too often, idyllic walks along our local beaches are disrupted by loud barking, the threatening rush of bright teeth and furry bodies, the unexpected presence of smelly dog droppings underfoot. Our beaches have become playgrounds and toilets for unleashed dogs, turning a treasure for all into an exclusive domain for the few.

Santa Cruz County Animal Services has recently started enforcing county leash laws, much to the consternation of local residents who have grown used to letting their dogs run free on local beaches, in the absence of county enforcement. This has resulted in a lobbying campaign by dog owners to encourage Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to provide off-leash hours at the Live Oak beach between 20th Avenue and Moran Lagoon. Proponents claim that their animals need freedom to run unfettered and that limited off-leash hours would not infringe on others' enjoyment of the beach.

Santa Cruz County has strict leash laws, Section 6.12 of County Code, directing residents to keep all dogs on leash on public property and facilities at all times, and prohibiting animal defecation on any public property or improved private property, other than that of the owner. These laws would have to be amended in order to allow off-leash hours at local beaches. 

But county leash laws are not the only consideration.

Dogs running free not only pose a threat to people but also drive off shorebirds and other wildlife on local beaches, which are governed by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). Harassment of "any marine mammal, sea turtle, or bird within or above the Sanctuary" is prohibited by United States Code of Federal Regulations, Title 15, Part 92.132 - Prohibited or otherwise regulated activities. MBNMS works in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to assist with enforcement.

At a recent constituent meeting by Supervisor John Leopold, opponents and proponents of off-leash hours at county beaches presented their cases. In response to a suggestion that the county provide off-leash dog parks where dog-owners can let their dogs run free in fenced enclosures, Supervisor Leopold pointed out that a dog park has been built at the new Chanticleer Avenue Park, on the West side of Chanticleer Avenue, about a quarter mile north of Capitola Road in Live Oak. However, the signs at the Chanticleer Park indicate that dogs are required to be on leash at all times in the Pet Exercise Area, as the split rail fence is inadequate to keep off-leash dogs contained within the park.

Rather than flouting existing leash laws and lobbying for special consideration by federal, state and county officials, local dog owners would do well to organize and help the county upgrade the Chanticleer Park facility to allow off-leash dogs, and to build and maintain additional dedicated off-leash facilities on county parks away from sensitive beaches. These areas would provide needed exercise and socialization for dogs and an opportunity for dog owners to gather and socialize, without threatening sensitive species or infringing on others who prefer their recreational opportunities dog-free.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Angela Heywood December 16, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Let them... the more they talk and the more they act, the nuttier they seem. Let the county see that they have some specific prejudice against dogs, since they do not care about illegal fires or trash or anything else. Their words say: "It is against the law." But their actions say: "We only care that dog owners are doing something." What I find REALLY funny is that one of his heros is Edward Abbey - noted anarchist. And even his email name, hayduke, is an anarchist. Funny, considering MLewis is all about the rules that can't be broken. And this would be Michael Lewis, with his OFF-LEASH dog. http://www.rattlebrain.com/~hayduke/Images/michael.jpg
Jean December 16, 2012 at 09:14 PM
So much ignorance. That is not Michael's dog in the picture. It is mine and he was getting back into the car when I asked Michael to turn for a moment so I could get a picture of both of them. Incidentally, that was not in Santa Cruz County; it was in the desert. Please stop this juvenile bickering.
Michael A. Lewis December 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
For those unfamiliar with anarchism, a quick Google search will show that anarchy means "No Rulers," not "No Rules." Every community has its rules of behavior each member of the community is expected to follow. All members of the community participate in enforcing community rules. "Illegal fires or trash or anything else" do not have anything to do with illegally letting dogs run off-leash in Santa Cruz County. I care that individuals are breaking the law and allowing their dogs to disturb wildlife on beaches that border the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary.
c1620 December 16, 2012 at 09:27 PM
michael lewis is a skilled manipulator but not informed. He's just got goggle and lots of time on his hands.
Jean December 16, 2012 at 09:28 PM
From what I have seen, no one needs to follow anyone...dog owners with off-leash dogs are all over the place. They literally come to the photographer. As for your threatening tone, do please go away.
c1620 December 16, 2012 at 09:28 PM
michael lewis makes lots of assumptions.
c1620 December 16, 2012 at 09:41 PM
thanks for your expert advice, jean, on dog exercise. what qualifies you to advise us on this subject? to argue that allowing dogs on the beach unleashed would essentially render those beaches "single-use" is so very manipulative.
c1620 December 16, 2012 at 09:43 PM
so you are advocating euthanizing out pets? you are a saying its not "appropriate" for me keep my dog because he needs exercise. Hey jean, did you hear that - a brisk walk is not going to do it?
Angela Heywood December 16, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Jean says "I care that individuals are breaking the law" Really? Then why don't you care about these laws being broken? - littering There are more pounds of cigarette butts than dog poop picked up at ALL local beach clean-ups - Illegal firepits - Illegal fireworks - Illegal camping - Being on the beach after it is closed
Angela Heywood December 16, 2012 at 10:18 PM
According to Webster's: Anarchism: a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anarchism Nowhere does it say "follow the law". I voluntarily do not cooperate with the leash law - and I am willing to be responsible for those actions or non-actions.
Jean December 16, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Angela ~ Why would you assume that I do not care about the other illegal and harmful activity at the beach? Before you answer, take a breath and remember that this thread is about off-leash dogs. Care about those other laws being broken? Start a new thread. I'll bet you get lots of support for enforcement of those laws also.
Jean December 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Goodness me. Angela is an anarchist?!
c1620 December 17, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Michael Lewis claims his hyper focus on off leash dogs at LO beaches is dedicated to protecting wildlife and to the cause of curbing violations of the law. But Mr. Lewis, being the expert you are (albeit self-designated), surely you've assessed that birds engage in flying behavior. Yes - a bird can be encountering dogs at 26th ave. beach and within minutes be encountering dogs on the westside beaches. Same bird, different dogs. I'd say the birds have the edge here - but I digress. If your aim is seabird protection, your campaign couldn't be no terribly effective since birds fly and westide dogs differ little from eastside ones. Didn't you think of this? No? Then there is the claim that you're supporting "obeying the law" - to the point of supplying law enforcement with fuzzy photos of smiling people enjoying their lives with their dog friends. Advocacy or vigilantism? If you're sincerely concerned with laws being obeyed why haven't we heard a peep from you about humans flagrantly disobeying numerous laws - even those that might cause wildlife discomfort? It seems Mr. Lewis's campaign is not supportive of wildlife or law enforcement but solely a campaign against his neighbors' dogs.
Angela Heywood December 17, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Jean.... yes, you care about other things than dogs at the beach. But since you lost the fight to have your way at Arana Gulch it seems dogs are your target now. Seriously, why haven't YOU adopted a beach? Sunny Cove needs a sponsor. Moran Lake needs a sponsor. Get off your keester and DO something positive to REALLY help the shore birds. All that plastic and litter is killing them. I used to work for Monterey Wildlife. I never saw a bird come in dead or damaged by a dog. It was all humans. Seabirds with fishing line wrapped around their bodies. I won't go into more details, but it was awful. Man does 1000 times more damage than dogs.
Steve Premo December 17, 2012 at 05:22 PM
It is true that anarchism does not imply a lack of order, but the "rules" of a community, in the absence of government, are established by custom. The custom on the beaches in question is to let dogs run off-leash. Here, popularly elected officials have the right to make the rules. If that this is consistent with anarchism, that means that representative democracy is a form of anarchy, a proposition that would be rejected by anyone familiar with anarchism.
c1620 December 17, 2012 at 06:11 PM
thanks, Angela for true expert testimony from someone who knows what they are talking about rather than using google to come up with rationale for their prejudices. I hope you send letters to the board of supervisors, parks, and the human society board.
Michael A. Lewis December 17, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Steve Premo: We don't live in an anarchist community. We live in a representative republic. Until Santa Cruz County changes to an anarchist community, we deal with what we have: County leash laws that make it illegal to allow dogs to run off-leash anywhere in the County.
Angela Heywood December 17, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Really? We don't live in an anarchist community? Bike church, the Info Shop, Free Skool, Fabrica, Guerilla Drive-in... just to name a few. Oh, and my favorite: the Last Night Parade on NYE. I know I'm gonna start a sh*tstorm here, but IMHO, every time someone decides to roll thru a stop sign, allow their children to chalk on the sidewalk, cross the street not in a crosswalk, don't use their turn signals, etc... they have committed an anarchist act. They made a decision on their own (regardless of legality) and agreed to take responsibility for it. I think this is a huge anarchist community, I just think people are not clear on what that is. For instance, when I told my 30-year-old nephew that I am an anarchist, he said "so you don't believe in gawd?" And he thinks he is a republican graffiti artist. Talk about not clear on the concept: how is that Michael and/or Jean is a big fan of Edward Abby and Hayduke, two well-known anarchists, but yet they are all about the rules?
Michael A. Lewis December 18, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Yes, really. Once again, with four part harmony and feeling: Anarchy does not mean no rules, anarchy means no rulers. "An-archy." No rulers. Ignoring the rules of the community is not anarchy, it is self-centered irresponsibility. One respects one's fellow community members by respecting the rules of the community. One disrespects one's neighbors by disrespecting neighborhood rules. Rolling through a stop sign, crossing the street not in a crosswalk and disrupting traffic, not using turn signals, etc... are not acts of anarchy. They are anti-social behavior that rightfully deserves the disapproval of the greater society. Anarchy does not mean the individual decides to violate the rules of the community. The fictional character, Hayduke, was not an anarchist. The acts of Hayduke depicted in Edward Abbey’s novels were not the acts of an anarchist. They were the acts of an individual who decided to go his own way. Our community has rules that we have agreed on through our process of decision-making in our community, to not allow dogs to run off-leash for the protection of the members of our community, for protection of all animals in our community, for the protection of the environment of our community, for the greater good. Anyone who blatantly flouts these rules, by deliberately turning their dogs loose to run off-leash in the County, disrespects their neighbors, our process of decision-making and our community values and morals.
Angela Heywood December 18, 2012 at 03:24 AM
So Abbey's writing of sabotage and damage to machines to protest environmentally damaging activities is not an anarchist act? That breaks a few laws, Michael. Oh wait, I get you now.... it's okay to break the law if it is (in your own opinion) good for the environment! Okay, with that twisted logic then, it is good for my environment to let my dog run free. My dog is nature. Beach is nature. Birds are nature. Leashes are not nature. Thanks for clearing that up for me.
Michael A. Lewis December 18, 2012 at 03:35 AM
That's correct. Abbey's writing of sabotage and damage to machines to protest environmentally damaging activities is not an anarchist act. No, you don't get me at all.
Jean December 18, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Nothing is a "target" for me, Angela. I always work to preserve what is left of the natural world, whether it is the coastal prairie grasslands of the Arana Gulch greenbelt or the marine environment (sand, beach, shoreline and associated wildlife). I do not need to adopt a beach. I pick up litter wherever I walk and I walk at least two miles every day. My keester even benefits because walking keeps me healthy and fit. All depredations of wildlife saddens me, no matter the culprit.
Steve Premo December 18, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Close enough. Anarchy means no government, i.e., advocacy of a stateless society. Lewis is correct that breaking the law is not, itself, anarchy. Anarchists may or may not obey the law. At the same time, since they oppose the government, they mostly do not believe that "neighborhood rules" have anything to do with the statutes and ordinances enacted by the government. Those who break the law do so for many reasons, including civil disobedience, selfishness, or a belief that the harm caused by following the law is greater than the harm caused by breaking it. That being said, since anarchists seek a stateless society, they tend not to give the laws of the state the same deference that a committed statist would give. That is, anarchists are not likely to feel that acting contrary to law is a wrong in itself.
Michael A. Lewis December 18, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Steve Premo: While this description is generally accurate, I quibble with the description of anarchy as "against government." Anarchy is against the state, which may or may not be equivalent to "the government." The state has a government, but the state is not the government itself. An anarchist society would have a form of governance, which, in total would be a government, but an anarchist society does not have a centralized, authoritarian state. http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hunt/A%20Definition%20of%20the%20State.htm There is also a difference between laws and rules. Laws are rules codified by the state, so an anarchist resists the imposition and centralized enforcement of laws. The anarchist society also has rules, developed through time by members of the society and enforced by all members of the society. Anarchists support and enforce the rules, work to change the rules or relocate to another society where the rules are more amenable.
Angela Heywood December 19, 2012 at 05:07 AM
You know the meaning of the word amoral? Well, I am alegal. My personal anarchy: I care about whether it is (IMHO) caring, kind, ethical, moral.... I do not care if it is legal. It has to make sense to me and laws do not always make sense (no sitting on a bench longer than an hour?). And I reject the idea that someone else can decide that for me, so I reject laws and anyone's right to make them over others. In some cases, my own ideas about what that is are stricter than the laws created by others. I suppose it would be easier to blindly follow the rules and not think, I prefer to think and make my own choices. Just as there are many personal interpretations of being Democrat or Republican, there are many variations of anarchism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchism
Michael A. Lewis December 19, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Hello Angela. How's Ezra these days? Anarchy does not mean everyone does anything they want to. That's chaos. Anarchy means we decide, in cooperation with our community, the rules that we all live by, for the greater good of the entire community. Mutual aid. One who rejects those rules, or attempts to make isolated decisions about which rules to follow, rejects the community and its greater good.
Jean December 19, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Steve Premo wrote: "That being said, since anarchists seek a stateless society, they tend not to give the laws of the state the same deference that a committed statist would give. That is, anarchists are not likely to feel that acting contrary to law is a wrong in itself." This statement, appearing as it does as fact, is not factual. I am very interested in and sympathetic to anarchy as a societal organizing principal and I have lived with an anarchist for over 12 years. This anarchist (and myself) give the laws of our community more respect than most. We drive within the speed limit (most do not), respecting our fellow citizens. When on our bikes, we stop at stop signs (most do not), signal our turns and drive with traffic (all DMV rules of the road). While bicycling, we stay off the sideWALKS, so pedestrians can be safe. We acknowledge and employ the various environmental protection laws also (Endangered Species Act as an example). And when our canine companions were alive, we kept them on leashes here in Santa Cruz County, which has a leash law ordinance, for the protection of both canines and humans. Saying that anarchists are not going to give laws (or rules) the same deference as "committed statists" is unsubstantiated speculation. I am committed to doing the right thing, no matter what my societal organization preference.
Steve Premo December 19, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Jean, is the anarchist to whom you refer Michael Lewis? He identifies as an anarchist? The mind boggles, as he seems to have argued that one has a moral duty to obey the law, in that the government has legitimate authority derived from the consent of the governed. He's the first anarchist I know of who takes such a stand, but I might be misunderstanding his position. I applaud you for your commitment to doing the right thing. I am also committed to doing the right thing. You and I may disagree on what constitutes the right thing to do under any given circumstances, but it is important to have good values and integrity, and to lead a morally impeccable life. I think we disagree on whether those who let dogs run free on the beach are doing the right thing. You have argued that it's wrong to break the law, while I believe that deference to the authority of the state is not a moral issue but a practical one. That being said, many laws do have moral force, but that is not because they are laws. It's wrong to hurt people without good cause whether one has a legal right to do so or not.
Michael A. Lewis December 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Steve: I have never said “one has a moral duty to obey the law, in that the government has legitimate authority derived from the consent of the governed.” What I have said is that none of us here live in an anarchist society, sad though that may be. We live in a representative republic. Since all of us here choose freely to live in this representative republic, we are bound by its social relationships, including the rules of this society that are codified in state laws. We are free to disagree with those laws and work toward changing those laws with which we disagree, but we are not free from those laws even though we think another way of governance would be better. This does not mean that the state has legitimate authority derived from the consent of the governed, especially in the United States, in which the representative republic has morphed into a corporate oligarchy. When we are all sitting around the campfire singing Kumbaya in an anarchist community, we can decide amongst ourselves what the rules are and what are the consequences for flouting those rules. For now, we have to deal with the society in which we live and deal with the real world, not the world we wish it to be.
Brad Kava (Editor) December 23, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Please no personal attacks. I will delete them. Let's be civil, here. Thanks.

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