On May 20, Brandon and his buddy Raul, could’ve been fined $100 apiece, if they walked their two labrador-mix dogs past the jetties in Imperial Beach.
“The fact that the sign is posted up there,” Brandon said, “I’m not going to take my dogs over there.”
On the soft sand by the north side jetty, sits a rectangular structure made of wood. It measures over 16 feet long, four- to five-feet tall and has two signs warning dog-walkers like Brandon and Raul, not to pass north of the structure into YMCA Camp Surf.
The sign on the left reads in part “no dogs on beach”; the sign to the right reads in part “Individuals impacting endangered species and habitat subject to fines, penalties and imprisonment under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.”
“I understand and I’m kinda on the fence about it,” Raul said, “but the dogs need more room to run.”
There’s about a quarter mile between the jetties where dogs on the leash are allowed to roam about.
On the Imperial Beach website, it reads: “Dogs are allowed in the beach area of the City if they are fastened or led by chains or leashes of suitable strength which are not more than six feet in length, and as long as the dogs are not in any beach area from Imperial Beach Boulevard to Palm Avenue [by where the south-side jetty is].”
Greg, Roxy, and their mixed Boston Terrier were visiting from Illinois. “I understand them protecting their endangered species,” Greg said, “but they need to be a little bit more clear [about where the dogs can and can’t walk] because I see a dog down there.”
Greg and Roxy entered the beach near The Spirit of Imperial Beach Statue [by Palm Avenue and Seacoast Drive] and didn’t see a sign posted on how far north or south they can walk their doggie.
“I was in the service here 40 years ago and I see how Imperial Beach has changed,” Greg said, “these condos weren’t here back then. IB was a small town.”
Andrew, an IB resident, walks his Belgian Malinois Canine here as well. “After my military working dog retired, I would take him on the beach on-leash north of Camp Surf to exercise and play,” he said.
Andrew and his wife were recently approached by a Fish and Game officer in a SUV on the beach.
“He informed me that we were not allowed to have our dog on the beach,” he said, “even while on a leash because it’s a protected environmental area.”
I saw E. Maurice, a lifeguard, in his truck patrolling by the jetties. This area was his beat for the last 10 years and said that the dog-walkers’ rules were enforced ever since. “We are not supposed to go north of the other jetty [by Camp Surf],” he said, “that’s where they [Western Snowy Plovers] are nesting and that’s part of their nesting grounds. I don’t know every law regarding that, but you need to talk to the humane society.”
“I have never seen any nesting birds or eggs [on or by the beach],” said Kylie, another IB resident that was walking her dog with a friend and her dog, on May 18th. They start at Elder Avenue and head westbound to the beach; then stroll up the beach underneath the pier; then pass the jetty by Palm Avenue and pass the second jetty (with the wooden structure); and walk through Camp Surf up north — about five days a week.
They usually walk at 5:30 a.m, but last Friday at about 9:40 a.m., “A Fish and Game warden stopped us, asked to see our dog licenses and told us there were no dogs allowed on the beach,” she said. “I was unaware and he stated there was a sign posted [on the wooden structure by the north side jetty] and, because we walk at the tide line, I didn’t read the sign posted as it was much higher up. I’ve been walking here for years in the morning and have never had a problem.”
After I spoke to E. Maurice, the lifeguard, I walked up the beach past the jetties to locate a Fish and Game warden, an Animal Humane Society staff member, or eggs. I had no such luck, so I walked back and found a lady wearing a uniform with Imperial Beach embroidered on it who was picking up trash with a pair of tongs by the south side jetty.
“The Humane Society [staff members],” she said, “they are the ones giving out tickets.”
On May 21, Kelly Schry from San Diego Humane Society said that there are marked areas on the beach where “dogs even on leash are not allowed on the beach. The first fine for violating that is $100.”
“This rule is very overbearing to citizens’ and their dogs’ rights,” Andrew said. “It’s funny how my canine fought to protect our freedoms overseas just to come home and have his basic freedom stripped from him.”