La Jollans behind off-leash hours for dogs want residents’ feedback

By Ashley Mackin

With the goal of finding a solution amenable to as many people as possible, a group of dog-owning La Jollans is gathering fellow residents’ responses to a proposal to allow off-leash hours for dogs on a La Jolla beach.

“We’re hoping to get input from other La Jollans and find a compromise ... but the tentative proposal we have now is to let the dogs run free — off leash — in just a portion of the beach and only before 9 a.m.,” said organizer Nancy Linck, adding that a formal proposal or petition has not been drafted. Feedback thus far has only been through word of mouth and talking with neighbors.

A specific off-leash location has not been determined because the group would first like to obtain residents’ input, hence the outreach. However, due to supporters’ proximity to WindanSea and Marine Street beaches — and some of the natural boundaries there, such as rocks — they are hopeful for something in one of those areas.

“We bought our home in La Jolla because we like the beach here. We want to let our dogs run around here. In having our dogs on the beach in La Jolla, we’ve got to know other dog owners. There is a solid community here,” Linck said.

However, the city’s increased enforcement of leash laws — and an increase in ticketing — discourages off-leash dog activity and prompted the group to seek city-approved leash-free hours. A ticket for having a dog off leash can run up to $400.

A handful of nearby residents admitted to letting their dogs on the beach off leash in the early morning hours because there is often no one else there and no one would be bothered. Another organizer, Susan Wilson, said, “Based on our experience, there are no tourists or people who frequent that area until about 9 a.m., and compromise is the goal here.”

The group said it is not seeking to have the area designated as a full-time dog park or dog beach.

Organizers want to determine community concerns, so these concerns may be addressed in any subsequent proposal.

Wilson said concerns, such as confrontation between a dog and someone unprepared to see a dog off leash on the beach, are “totally logical” and the group is willing to work with these matters and find a solution.

“The small group that goes to the beach in the early morning has very good control over their dogs,” Wilson said. “Those who don’t have control of their dogs will run into problems whether they are on the beach, at a park or on the street. The important thing is having your dog under control if you are going to let them off leash.”

Fellow supporter Ric Shwisberg addressed concern over “anything the dogs might leave behind.” He said he and other dog owners are “diligently down there cleaning up after our pets, as well as cleaning the trash that other people leave on the beach. We live there, we spend time there, so it’s important for us to keep it clean and keep it nice.” The group encourages other dog owners to do the same.

Linck added she and other dog owners have no problem pointing out to other dog owners when their pet defecated on the beach. “But most owners know when their dogs are going to go and keep an eye for it,” she said.

Linck said she would like to get the petition circulating as soon as possible, but there is no established deadline for comments. To offer feedback on the issue, send an e-mail to