Everyone loves their pets but no matter how much we want them to be treated like family, the law doesn’t give dogs the same rights as people, including limitations on their access to the beach. 

Dogs are allowed on the beach path but they are not allowed on the sand and Santa Monica officials are seeing a significant increase in complaints about dogs on local beaches. Dogs, even leashed, are not allowed on the sand on any Santa Monica beaches and owners can face fines for repeated violations. 

While enforcement is an option, officials said they are working to educate locals on the rules before resorting to penalties. 

“We contact hundreds of people every week who are in violation by bringing their dogs with them to enjoy a day at the beach in Santa Monica,” said Rob Silverstein with the Santa Monica Police Department’s Animal Control Unit. “Our approach to the problem has been to start with education and gaining voluntary compliance.”

Silverstein said beach visitors fall into three categories, tourists, day-trippers and locals. He said individuals visiting from out of town, state or country who are traveling with a dog may not know their pets are prohibited on the sand and those individuals are prime candidates for warnings and education. 

In addition, pandemic impacts may be worsening the immediate problem as many people adopted dogs during the past couple of years and those new owners are also unaware of beach rules. With Covid restrictions easing, Santa Monica is seeing an influx of eager visitors and the combination of ignorance and anticipation is spiking the number of complaints about dogs on the sand. 

While some of the problems are a result of a lack of understanding, some individuals, local or otherwise, make a habit of illegally running dogs on the beach and may lie to officers about their animals or behaviors. In those cases, enforcement may be an immediate option. 

“There are certain circumstances where a citation will be issued without a warning,” he said. “Examples of when we would issue a citation without a warning may include: Dogs being run off-leash on the beach; Dogs being allowed to run off-leash in a protected area such as the plover sanctuary; An owner who allows their dog to bite a person or other animal while on the beach; A person who has received prior warning for the same violation; A person who intentionally falsely states that their dog is a legal service animal when it is not; or A person who refuses to voluntarily comply and remains on the beach with the animal.”

Animal Control issued 48 citations for dogs on the beach in 2019. That number dropped to 24 during the Covid shutdown of 2020 and rose back to 50 last year. So far, officers have issued 23 citations this year. 

There are two official dog beaches in the greater LA/Orange County area. 

Huntington Dog Beach runs along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) between Seapoint Avenue and 21st Street. The official rules require all dogs to be leashed on the beach but according to the City’s description of allowable actions on the beach “…for the past several years only unleashed, potentially dangerous dogs have been cited or removed.​”

Rosie’s Dog Beach is in Long Beach on Ocean Blvd. between Granada Avenue. and Roycroft Avenue. Rosie’s allows dogs off-leash in the designated dog-friendly area. 

For more information on legal dog beaches, visit: https://www.longbeach.gov/park/park-and-facilities/directory/rosies-dog-beach/ or https://www.surfcityusa.com/things-to-do/beaches/dog-beach/#rules.