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Dogs, downward: N.B. animal-control officers writing fewer tickets at unofficial ‘dog beach’ so far this year

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Newport Beach animal-control officers are on pace to write fewer tickets than they did last year for canine-related city code violations at the unofficial dog beach near the mouth of the Santa Ana River.
(File Photo)

Dog-related city code violations are dropping near the unofficial dog beach at the far western side of Newport Beach.

The number of citations issued for violating rules such as leash laws, waste pickup and time-of-day restrictions near the mouth of the Santa Ana River — a popular place for dogs and their owners to frolic in calm, shallow surf — is on pace to be lower than last year, according to Nick Ott, a city animal-control officer.

Through mid-September, city officials had issued 29 such citations near the unofficial river jetty dog beach — putting them on pace to write about 40 by the end of the year. Officers wrote 54 total citations in 2018.

Proportionally, dog beach citations represented 47% of animal control tickets citywide last year. So far this year, they account for 34% of all tickets.

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Citations peak over the summer and the total shouldn’t grow by much this year, Ott said Wednesday during a panel discussion on dogs in public places at the monthly Speak Up Newport forum. He attributed the drop to improved public education.

Less-severe written warnings are stable from last year. There have been 100 dog-related ones issued so far this year, representing 32.9% of all written warnings citywide. Last year, there were 133.

The tickets and warnings from Newport Beach animal-control officers are only issued within the city limits, on the streets and beach on the southeastern boundary of the river jetty. Huntington State Beach is to the northwest.

The river mouth itself is an Orange County flood-control channel and, according to county rules, neither dogs nor humans are allowed in it, Ott said.

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This has not stopped the area from long being used as a dog park for canines that enjoy getting their paws wet. Packs of off-leash dogs and their owners can easily be seen splashing from nearby Pacific Coast Highway — much to the consternation of environmentalists who say the activity is detrimental to the rare and sensitive western snowy plovers and California least terns that roost in the sand nearby.

Speakers at Wednesday’s Speak Up Newport meeting will include representatives of Orange County Coastkeeper and the city’s recreation and animal-control services.

Dog-related regulations have their own chapter in Newport’s municipal code. In addition to requiring leashes in all public spaces and restricting hours for dogs on public beaches, the rules also prohibit dogs from public docks, piers and certain parks and require dogs to be licensed and vaccinated against rabies, among other regulations.

Dogs aren’t allowed on the city’s beaches between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on the oceanfront and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on the harbor and bay fronts.

Newport Beach has only one off-leash dog park — a nearly half-acre patch within Civic Center Park on the city’s east side.

Another is proposed within Sunset View Park. The 0.2-acre space was chosen to give residents of the west side, who typically have small or nonexistent yards, a place with plentiful parking and scenic views where they can exercise their dogs, said Sean Levin, deputy director of the city’s Recreation & Senior Services department.

The closest legal dog beach to Newport is in Huntington Beach, at PCH and Goldenwest Street.

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