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Panel to discuss rules for dogs at Newport’s beaches and parks

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Dogs play off leash in the ocean at the mouth of the Santa Ana River between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
(File Photo)

Newport Beach officials will give a primer Wednesday on when and where dogs are allowed at local parks and beaches.

Panelists at the monthly Speak Up Newport meeting will give an update on what’s happening at the unofficial dog beach at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, show plans for a new public dog park at Sunset View Park in western Newport and run down leash laws and other canine rules at all Newport beaches, including Corona del Mar and Balboa Island. They also will discuss whether dogs are compatible with sensitive bird habitats on the sand and whether the rules should be changed or enforcement is sufficient.

The free event will run from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Civic Center Community Room at 100 Civic Center Drive.

Featured speakers are scheduled to include Sean Levin, deputy director of the city’s Recreation & Senior Services department; Nick Ott, a city animal-control officer; and Garry Brown, president of Orange County Coastkeeper, a Costa Mesa-based environmental group.

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Dogs are allowed on Newport’s city beaches only before 10 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m., and only if on a leash. Off-leash dogs are not allowed at any public spaces, including beaches.

The de facto dog beach at the Orange County-controlled river jetty near the Newport Beach-Huntington Beach border consistently draws supporters and scrutiny.

The area is frequently used by dog owners who let their pets run off leash, saying they enjoy the chance to frolic in the surf with them.

In 2016, the county Board of Supervisors halted a final vote on an ordinance that would have changed county law to permit off-leash dogs on that stretch of sand. Environmental groups raised concerns that unleashed canines could cause harm to rare and at-risk western snowy plovers and California least terns that roost nearby.

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Newport Beach resident Mike Glenn, an advocate of an official dog beach, said at the time that “the dogs are already in the area. It’s not like we’re talking about introducing dogs when they had never been there before.”

Scott Thomas of the Irvine-based Sea & Sage Audubon Society said at a California Coastal Commission meeting in December that “when dogs approach, whether it’s on leash or off leash, [the birds] move … out of areas where they’re supposed to be. They stop doing the foraging they’re supposed to do. They stop doing the breeding behaviors they’re supposed to do.”

Brown told the Coastal Commission that the agency should do more for the birds.

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