ENCINITAS — City Council chambers were packed Sept. 9 with residents concerned about expanding off-leash hours and locations for dogs at the city’s parks. While the majority of the speakers supported the effort, a few residents and council members were opposed to it.
More than two dozen residents addressed the council, many carrying pictures of their dogs.
Leucadia resident Steve Meiche admitted he might not be popular with the crowd but he said he didn’t support expanding the current off-leash hours. Meiche, a dog owner himself, said dog owners use Orpheus Park at all hours rather than abiding by the rules. He said he won’t allow his two young sons to roll in the grass because of health and safety concerns. “The EPA actually classifies animal feces as hazardous materials,” he told the council. He encouraged the council to enforce the current off-leash hours.
The city currently allows off-leash dogs from 6 to 7:30 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Viewpoint, Orpheus and Sun Vista parks. A trail segment between Encinitas Boulevard and Mountain Vista is also available for off-leash dogs from dusk to dawn.
Charles Anderson, a college student who lives in the city, told the council he was one of the dog owners to receive a $445 ticket on July 31 for not having his dog on a leash 10 minutes after off-leash hours expired. “There needs to be something done to expand the hours,” he said. “I’ve never been embarrassed to be a citizen of Encinitas,” he said. “I now am.”
Encinitas resident Tom Carrey said that bad behavior shouldn’t be rewarded by allowing expanded hours for off-leash dogs.
Kimberly Patton frequents Viewpoint Park with her two dogs during the morning hours. “My dogs and I would like to have a little more time,” she said.
The council directed city staffers and the Parks and Recreation Commission to consider adding two locations for off-leash dogs to access, including Glen Park and Hawk View Park. It also directed staff to research whether increased hours were possible at the three current off-leash park locations.
“I think we need to have separate areas for the dogs to go where they’re not intermingling with the children or doing their thing on their equipment,” Councilman Jerome Stocks said. Councilman Dan Dalager said he’d like to see dogs at Hawk View Park around the clock as long as it is a separate area.
“I think we will get an excellent solution,” Mayor Maggie Houlihan said. “I think we have to remember we’re all in this together, we all share resources.”