Judge Says Leave Those Seals Alone

A federal judge ruled there will be no barking noises or spraying water to scare off seals at the Children's Pool

The city of San Diego had planned to use tape recordings of barking dogs to try to drive the harbor seals away from Children's Pool in La Jolla. That is until Monday.

A federal judge handed a victory to the supporters of the seals Monday, ruling there will be no harassing or disturbing of the seals.

The issue has become a clash between state and federal laws. A federal law protects the seals -- and a state law requires the beach to be maintained for public use.

On Tuesday, City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner cancelled her plans for a public discussion on the best methods for dispersing the seals from Children's Pool. She said the public forum wasn't necessary because of the federal court ruling that at least temorarily stops the city from doing anything to chase away the seal colony.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Lightner announced plans for two public meetings to discuss the seal controversy. The first will be held June 18 at 6 p.m. at La Jolla High School, where residents will discuss how swimmers and seals can try to coexist at the Children's Pool beach this summer. The second meeting is scheduled for June 25, also at 6 p.m., at La Jolla High. The subject of that meeting will be the pros and cons of turning the beach into a marine mammal park.

Last week a San Diego County judge ordered the city to remove the seals. But Monday's ruling states that a previously issued a restraining order against the city -- ordering the seals be left alone -- is still in effect.

Meanwhile, a bill is pending in Sacramento.

If it passes and is signed by the governor. lt would change the agreement between the city and the state -- giving the city the final say on the fate of the seals.

But until then the seals stay, at least for now.

The city's plan to rid the seals involved tape-recorded barking from dogs played from 6 a.m. until sundown, said Bill Harris, who is a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sander's office.

An attorney for the seal lovers said using the sound of barking dogs to scare away the seals is "the most humane plan" to disperse the animals. Brian Pease said it was better idea than having workers physically shoo away the seals. Still, Pease opposed any effort to remove the seals, saying that the state court judge who wll hear this latest chapter in the controversy does not have the authority to order the seals dispersed because a federal court judge has ruled that the seals can stay on the beach.

San Diego's City Council plans a public meeting June 9 to discuss the status of the seals.

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