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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Editorial: Dogs On The Beach And Ongoing Issue

Editorial: Dogs On The Beach And Ongoing Issue

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

It's that time of the year again. The weather is warming up and people are heading to the beach. Some people bring their dogs along for the walk while others just take their dog down to leave some waste behind.
Inevitably people start to complain to the Town Council and Police Department.
Years ago a lady actually brought a bag full of poop she had collected within a small area on the beachfront. The message was, there's a problem and people don't pick up after their dogs.
Then there's the common situation where someone's walking their dog off of a leash and it frightens another person or runs up aggressively to another dog on, or off, their leash.
Last week someone emailed the Town about people violating the rules for dogs on the beach. Mayor Bob Lewis wrote to Police Chief Kurt Bartley, "This does seem to be an ongoing problem this year.  We need a plan to reduce the number and frequency of dogs on the beach.   We are getting a lot of complaints from residents about dogs on the beach this season and we could take a look at fines at the next council meeting but our police department has to ticket people."
That was in response to a citizen complaint about dogs on the beach. The person said while fishing one day they counted over 40 dogs on the beach within four hours.
The citizen wrote, "I witnessed several of them urinating on the beach and defecating.  Half the time I saw the owners pick the excrement up and dispose of it and half the time they do not. Half of the dogs are unleashed.  I walked to the North Pier and stepped clear of several piles of dog excrement.  Twice, unleashed dogs defecated in front of my beach house while the owners watched.  They did clean it up, one after I told them to. I find this to be disgusting."
All dogs are required to be on a leash at all times in Carolina Beach. Dogs are allowed on the beach town limits from November 1st to February 28th. You must have on your person at all times, a plastic or paper container that can be used to clean up and contain dog waste until it can be disposed of in an appropriate container. This container must be produced and shown, upon request, to anyone authorized to enforce this ordinance.
For Freeman Park on the north end, dogs are required to be on a leash from April 1st to September 30. From October 1st to March 31, dogs are allowed off a leash so long as they remain under voice command and the owner is within a reasonable distance from the pet.
These are the rules and people should follow them. If not, a fine should be imposed.
Mayor Lewis responded to the citizen, "I agree with your point and I will be meeting with the Police Chief to identify a strategy to get at least one officer during the week to patrol all the beach access areas and check the beach for dogs on the beach. We already have a fine for dogs on the beach and not picking up after your pet and we have enforced that law in the past. The problem is on weekends we have 4 officers per shift and with all the visitors it is tough to have someone watch the beach areas.  I will  have our lifeguards call the police when they see people with dogs on the beach. New Hanover County will not provide our Island a Magistrate full time so when we do make an arrest for a domestic or assault our officers need to drive an hour each way plus another hour or more booking at the county jail. This constantly takes another officer or more off patrol."
The Town has been confronted with this issue numerous times over the last decade. They have adopted rules and even installed bag dispensers at the Carolina Beach and other parks. At one time they held an art contest for school students to help generate public awareness. Many ideas have been proposed all with the best of intentions yet the problem continues.
And there are health risks. Kids play on the beach. People like to walk in clean sand. They don't want to lay out their beach towel only to find a chocolate sand castle hidden just beneath a layer of sand some irresponsible dog owner kicked atop their dog's business.
You can't fix stupid, but you can make stupid increasingly more expensive.
Therefore, the Council should strongly consider raising the fine as high as legally allowed to a point that people who receive a warning will quickly comply and those who don't can help offset the cost of government to responsible citizens. The current system is evidently akin to a large shark with no teeth. Sure, it's intimidating, but it has no teeth. Now, make the monetary fine something akin to a Great White Shark and people will think twice about getting bit. Education and awareness is a warm and fuzzy idea, but it's evidently got us absolutely nowhere over the years. The problem will never be 100% resolved, but the Council should consider something more abrupt to get people's attention.