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Arroyo Grande considers banning dogs from Soto Sports Complex

Cassandra Cox tosses a tennis ball with Abby, her Labradoodle, at the dog park at Arroyo Grande's Elm Street Park, which is adjacent to Soto Sports Complex.
Cassandra Cox tosses a tennis ball with Abby, her Labradoodle, at the dog park at Arroyo Grande's Elm Street Park, which is adjacent to Soto Sports Complex. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Public health and safety concerns have prompted Arroyo Grande officials to consider banning dogs from the city’s Soto Sports Complex, but the change might have some pet owners howling.

The dog ban would apply only to the sports complex on Ash Street, which includes tennis courts and fields used for baseball, softball, soccer and football. It would not apply to any other city parks, including the adjacent Elm Street Park, which includes an off-leash dog park.

The proposed ordinance would not apply to specially trained guide dogs, signal dogs or service dogs, city officials said. The Arroyo Grande City Council will consider the ordinance at its Jan. 14 meeting.

The change was driven in part by complaints about people not picking up after their dogs at the sports complex, as well as safety concerns.

“I think we’re becoming more dog-friendly and people bring their dogs with them, but in that area with a lot of small children at events, it’s a safety issue,” City Clerk Kelly Wetmore said.

The new rule is unlikely to please some dog owners.

Jerry Bunin, an Oceano resident and board member of the Five Cities Dog Park Association, said the board didn’t take an official position on the proposed ordinance but board members don’t support it.

He suggested the city first try to increase communication with sports complex users to discourage them from bringing their dogs to games and reminding them to clean up after their pets.

“As someone who doesn’t have children, my dogs are my family,” Bunin said. “I take them lots of places, and I enjoy having them. And not being able to do that is a limit on my ability to use public facilities.”

If approved, the ordinance would come back to the council for final approval Jan. 28.

The Jan. 14 meeting starts at 6 p.m. at 215 E. Branch St. For more information, go to www.arroyogrande.org or call 473-5400.

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