The grass-roots effort to create a place on the Santa Monica Beach for dogs to roam off-leash and enjoy the surf and sand is one the Daily Press supports. We feel Santa Monica-based Unleash the Beach’s request to create a pilot program with limited hours is not unreasonable and there is no hard evidence to back up claims that creating a dog beach will be detrimental to water quality and deteriorate the experiences of those visiting the beach.

Currently, dogs on leashes are permitted on several California beaches, but not in Santa Monica. Some cities and counties have taken it a step further and established specific areas on their beaches were dogs can play off-leash. Long Beach and Huntington Beach are two of the closest cities where dogs can roam free.

Unfortunately, those beaches are not close enough for Santa Monica residents and their dogs. Why should they have to drive several miles — and further contribute to pollution — when we have plenty of coastline right here? They deserve a local dog beach. To make it happen, the City Council, which manages the beach, will first have to endorse a pilot program and then lobby California State Parks, which owns the beach, to allow it. It will be tough without some pressure from state representatives Julia Brownley and Fran Pavley, but we believe if all parties present a detailed plan, it’s doable.

There would definitely have to be restrictions, such as a limit on the number of dogs allowed per person, the amount of time it would remain open and the days it would be available, and possibly fences or other temporary barriers to prevent dogs from interacting with those on the beach who would rather sun tan than play catch. Whether or not the dog area would extend to the water is also up for debate.

It would have to be located away from popular areas like just north and south of the Santa Monica Pier, and be far enough away from sensitive habitat. There would also need to be a nonprofit established, like in Huntington Beach, where users could donate funds to help with maintenance and the printing and distribution of materials educating users about the rules. There would also need to be a law limiting City Hall’s liability. While it sounds daunting, it’s been done elsewhere, so why not here?

Those with Unleash the Beach are willing to compromise. They just want the opportunity to show they can be good stewards of the beach. We believe these dedicate dog lovers will be responsible enough to look after themselves and be willing to police others, shaming those who fail to clean up after their pet. It’s definitely worth a trial run. So let’s try it.

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