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Redondo Beach could loosen leash to allow dogs in parks

The city's 3,600 licensed canines are barred from all parks but one, but officials have asked a panel to study modifying the 1979 ban to allow pets at Czuleger Park.

November 20, 2009|By Jeff Gottlieb

Don't bring your dogs to a park in Redondo Beach. Not Andrews Park, nor Anderson Park, nor any of the 26 or so parks in town unless you're prepared to pay.

It doesn't matter if you've got your dog on a leash or wearing a muzzle, whether it's a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, if you're caught walking Fido in a Redondo Beach park, it can cost you about $250.

Redondo Beach is one of the few cities that has made its parks dog-free zones. The only exception is the lone dog park, where they can roam unleashed in enclosed areas, one for big dogs, the other for small pooches.

"We've been described as the most dog unfriendly city in the South Bay," Councilman Bill Brand said.

Although there are other cities that have dog bans, such as Gardena, Hawthorne and Culver City, where they are permitted in only one park, the policy is uncommon enough that Linda Barth, assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services, said she had never heard of a city with regulations as strict as Redondo Beach's.

"There's not enough park patrol or animal control officers to proactively monitor parks, and taking your animal to the park under the appropriate conditions . . . many people would argue, is almost a protected right," she said.

There are many people in Redondo Beach who would agree, many of them owners of the 3,600 dogs licensed in the city.

Three petitions with several hundred signatures each have been submitted to the City Council in the last several months asking the city to loosen its leash on the dog policy.

This week, the council asked the Recreation and Parks Commission to study whether the 1979 law should be modified to allow leashed dogs in Czuleger Park, a 2.1-acre space near King Harbor.

"My sense is none of the other council members want to allow that to happen, but I'm willing to try it out in one park in my district," said Brand, who does not own a dog.

The arguments against allowing even leashed dogs in parks are that the owners often don't clean up after their pets, the animals can intimidate people, especially children, and they may bite.

But the argument usually is not directed at the pets, but at inattentive owners.

"I'm not against people with dogs," said Pat Aust, the council's most vehement opponent to loosening the regulations, and the owner of a Rottweiler. "I'm just against irresponsible people with dogs."

The sentiment about bad owners, as opposed to bad dogs, was shared by many people at the city's 2-acre dog park, but not the feeling that the animals should be kept out of the other parks.

"Isn't it terrible?" said Lianne Costelli, who was there with her Rhodesian ridgeback. "Dogs should be allowed in parks at least as long as the owners are responsible. When I take my kids to baseball and soccer practices, it would be nice to bring the dog."

Redondo Beach has given out 65 citations for dogs in parks in the last 12 months.

The fine itself is $50, but with fees tacked on by the state, dog owners say it can cost them $250.

"One of my officers writes a lot of tickets for it," said Redondo Beach Police Sgt. Phil Keenan. "I think he feels strongly about dogs defecating in the park. I generally don't enforce it."

Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, said people who don't take care of their animals ruin it for everyone else.

"I'm not a dog park person, so where do I go if I want to take my dog to the park?" she asked.

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