Employees with the San Diego Humane Society have been ticketing dog owners in Pacific Beach for allowing dogs off-leash at Kate Sessions Park and other areas not designated as a dog park.
The organization has begun issuing citations after spending the first six months of its new contract with the County of San Diego educating dog owners regarding walking and cleaning up dogs in shared spaces.
On Wednesday, the agency’s officers handed out six citations in Crown Point alone, according to Steve MacKinnon, Humane Law Enforcement Chief.
“We started citing people who are continuous violators,” he said. “That’s what they’re probably seeing now. Now they’re starting to feel a little bit of an edge to our approaches.
“We do take enforcement actions when necessary,” he said.
Under San Diego's Municipal Code, it's unlawful to allow a dog to run off-leash in a city-owned park or plaza unless it's designated as an off-leash area.
Citations start at $50 for a first-time offense. A second offense will cost the dog owner $100 and the third offense raises to a misdemeanor with a $200 fine.
City officials identified Crown Point as a problem area because it’s an area used by both school children and dog owners.
Capehart Dog Park located off of Soledad Mountain Road and Felspar Street is a designated off-leash park. However, some dog owners complain it’s not large enough.
Kate Sessions Park is much larger (79 acres) and is located approximately a mile away from the dog park. Dogs are allowed in the park but only on leashes.
Dog owner Kevin Dougherty has been using Kate Sessions Park for decades and has noticed an uptick in enforcement about dogs running off-leash.
He would love to see some kind of compromise that would allow off-leash dogs in Kate Sessions during part of the day.
“They designate specific hours of the day, usually one or two hours in the morning, and one or two hours at night and they get leash free areas during those hours,” he suggested.
MacKinnon said it’s possible for residents to sit down with city officials and negotiate new regulations. However, for now, there are over 400 parks within the city with 100 joint-use parks and his agency is responsible for making sure dog owners follow the rules.
“We’d love to be able to see more dog parks, more areas that people can safely and properly have their dogs off leashes,” he said. “But you have to be responsible at the same time.”
He said it’s a struggle to find the balance for dog owners and other community members and the Humane Society is just part of trying to make that balance work.