Complaints about dogs illegally on OB beaches brings vow from San Diego for ‘movement’ on enforcement

Dogs are allowed off leash at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, pictured in August 2020.
Dogs are allowed off leash at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, pictured in August 2020. But at other area beaches, they must be leashed and are allowed only during certain hours.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

In response to an Ocean Beach resident’s complaints about leashed and unleashed dogs running around beaches during prohibited hours, a San Diego city representative said officials would be asking the San Diego Humane Society — the city’s contractor for animal-control enforcement — about its practices and possibly “kicking them in the butt” if it’s not issuing enough citations.

Resident Edward Elliott said during the July meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council that he was bitten twice while jogging on the beach over the past year, once requiring medical attention. He said he had counted 20 dogs on the beach between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. over a seven-day period and now takes his camera while jogging to record infractions.

In general, dogs on leashes are allowed on beaches and on sidewalks and park areas near the beach from 6 p.m. until 9 a.m. the next day between April 1 and Oct. 31 and from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. between Nov. 1 and March 31, according to the San Diego Parks & Recreation Department. Ocean Beach’s Dog Beach is an exception to the restrictions.

Elliott said he would persist in his efforts to get more enforcement, especially since dog owners have the alternative to go to Dog Beach.

“They can do whatever they want with their dogs on Dog Beach,” he said. “I’m going to keep at it. ... I know it could be an unpopular topic, but a municipal code is a municipal code.”

“I know it’s a safety issue,” Elliott added. “I’m not the only one that’s having a problem with dogs on the beach.”

In December 2019, following earlier complaints, the City Council requested regular reports from the Humane Society on enforcement, according to Linus Smith, Ocean Beach representative for Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell.

That effort was sidelined soon afterward by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Smith said the issue would be heard by the council again soon.

“We’re going to be requesting that the San Diego Humane Society return to council and start giving those updates on how many citations they have been issuing, because again, we are seeing this a lot with off-leash dogs,” Smith said. “And if they aren’t issuing enough ... then quite honestly, just really kicking them in the butt essentially and saying, ‘Hey, we need this to be enforced,’ or finding alternative options. We are looking to make some movement on this.”

Kelli Schry, communications manager for the Humane Society, told the Point Loma-OB Monthly in an email that “our humane law enforcement officers respond to calls for service in Ocean Beach daily and respond to citizen complaints about off-leash dogs.”

This year, she said, Humane Society officers had responded to 357 calls for service in Ocean Beach for a variety of reasons, including bites and other attacks; reports of dangerous, injured, disabled or distressed animals; strays; service for animals whose owners have been arrested, hospitalized or are deceased; reports of cruelty and illegal animal sales; and calls from other law enforcement agencies for assistance. They also conduct self-initiated park and beach patrols, she said.

“In the past six months, our officers have issued 24 citations in the Ocean Beach area,” Schry said. “We prioritize our park and beach patrols based on citizen complaints and calls for service. Our records show that in the past six months, a majority of the off-leash complaints have come in from Ocean Beach parks and very few from the beaches.”

Elliott also appeared at the June Town Council meeting to express his concerns and showed a serious bite he said he had suffered the previous day. He spoke privately with San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer David Surwilo at that meeting and said he has since received correspondence from him, but Elliott said the issue still hadn’t been addressed.

“All I’m looking for is a change in culture as far as enforcement on the beach during prohibited times that dogs are not allowed on the beach,” Elliott said.

Schry encouraged community members to report off-leash violations at (619) 299-7012 (press 1). “It’s critical that community members let us know when and where there are issues so we can address them,” she said.


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