Beach-loving dog owners can breathe a temporary sigh of relief: The Port San Luis Harbor District isn’t banning dogs on its beaches just yet, though that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.
The district’s property committee, which had planned to consider the issue at its meeting Thursday, delayed making a decision on whether the district should implement new restrictions to designate certain beaches as “dog free” or add hours when dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, Harbor Manager Andrea Lueker said.
“They wanted to have some further discussion,” she said. “They’ll review the ordinance again at the next meeting.”
Lueker said the committee wanted to talk with local volunteer and dog groups over the next few weeks to see whether some of the recent complaints regarding dogs on beaches and irresponsible owners could be handled without adding new regulations.
A district staff report lists some of the complaints at each of the beaches, namely dog owners leaving used dog waste bags on the ground or on beach structures such as benches and lifeguard towers. Others complained that owners don’t pick up after their animals at all.
District staff also expressed worries that the increasing popularity of some of the smaller beaches in the district could boost the risk for negative altercations with unleashed dogs.
“While the majority of dog owners are responsible, those who are not impact the beach experience for others,” the report states.
Three of the district’s beaches — Olde Port, Fishermans and Lighthouse beaches — allow unleashed dogs on the beaches at all times. Avila Beach, which is also in the district, prohibits dogs on the beach between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., but allows unleashed canines the rest of the day.
South County beaches are a popular destination for many local pet owners.
“It makes me sad,” said Christine France of Arroyo Grande about the possibility of restrictions, as she played Friday with her dog, Maggie Mae, at Olde Port Beach. “I want a place where she can run. The dogs have a great time here.”
France said fewer and fewer hiking trails are allowing dogs these days, meaning she has fewer places to bring her dog for a fun day outdoors.
The Claudy family, also at the beach Friday, said they were grateful for having a place they could bring their dogs.
“It’s considered a real asset to the community and known along the whole coast,” John Claudy said.
When asked how they would feel if they didn’t have access to the beach anymore, Carolyn Claudy replied: “We’d be devastated.”
The district’s property committee will consider the issue at its next meeting on Feb. 9 and plans to make a recommendation to the district harbor commissioners.
Tribune photographer Joe Johnston contributed to this report.