Santa Monica Beach welcomes swimmers, surfers, joggers, volleyball players and all manner of tourists. But no dogs. In fact, along the entire 75-mile stretch of Los Angeles County coastline, the only area where dogs are lawfully permitted to romp is a three-acre zone in Long Beach known as Rosie's Dog Beach.
Now, animal lovers are proposing a pilot dog beach in Santa Monica to test whether off-leash dogs can coexist with people. The city of Santa Monica supports the idea, but its beach is state-owned, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation is staunchly opposed. According to a 2006 report commissioned by now state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), 46 California beaches allow on-leash dogs and another 19 allow dogs off-leash. But while some state-owned beaches allow dogs on leash, they generally don't allow dogs to run free.
State officials and Heal the Bay have raised public health and environmental concerns about dog waste contaminating sand and water, as well as pets posing a threat to people, nesting shore birds and other canines. Even if dogs and their owners were perfectly well behaved and the latter always conscientiously cleaned up after the former, pathogens from dog waste would still contaminate the sand that children play in, said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay (and owner of three dogs). The city of Santa Monica, with the help of Heal the Bay, has spent millions to clean up the water along its shore. Why risk dogs adding more pollutants?