Police: no dogs on the boardwalk

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OCEAN CITY — During the off-season, many of the city’s rules and regulations go on hiatus; parking meters go into hibernation, you can ride your bike on the boardwalk at all hours and you can walk your dog on the beach, too.

One rule, however, does stay in place. Dogs are not welcome on the boardwalk at any time.

With the relatively mild winter, people have been walking the boards and dogs have been an issue, police say. The Ocean City Police Department is taking steps to remind people of the city’s ordinance prohibiting dogs on the boardwalk.

“Every spring and fall, people are up there in full force with dogs, and we get a lot of complaints,” said Capt. Steve Ang of the OCPD. In fact, ordinance 87-17 prohibiting dogs on the boardwalk at any time, garners the most complaints, mostly from folks who spot dog owners flagrantly violating the ordinance.

“When they are stopped, most people claim that they are unaware of the law, so we had some big A-frame signs made up to remind them,” Ang said.

At every street end, there is a sign posted that explains the ordinance. As of last week, the new blue and yellow A-frame “No dogs permitted” signs are at three or four locations along the boards.

“They might miss the signs at every street end, but they can’t miss the A-frame signs,” Ang said. “We’ve seen a difference already. Most people are compliant once it is explained to them that dogs are not permitted. A lot of people think because they are allowed on the beach in the off-season that dogs are permitted on the boardwalk, but that is not the case.

“We are going to make a concerted effort on nice days in the spring to make sure that we have at least one officer on the boardwalk,” Ang said. “Sometimes people are just crossing the boardwalk to get to the beach, but sometimes they are walking down the boardwalk with a dog on the leash. The whole purpose of our effort to advise people of the law is to keep dogs off; we don’t want to write tickets. This is an educational campaign, we are warning people. We are trying to get people to comply as best we can; repeat offenders will get a summons. Unfortunately, we have to write a ticket if they don’t abide by the rules. We’ve had a very strong push the past few years on this because it has become a problem.”

Ang said police are aware that every municipality has its own laws guiding dogs in public places.

“When people come down to vacation or visit, sometimes they just don’t know,” he said. “They want to enjoy themselves and a lot of people are surprised that dogs are not allowed. They always say they will clean up, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t and they ruin it for others.

“Also, when we have a high volume of people, you have to worry about a dog on a leash encountering another dog on a leash; it could create an unsafe environment for others.”

Dogs, he noted, are unpredictable. They stop, start and wander, pull on the leash and can sometimes be unruly when another dog approaches. Dogs like to sniff each other, light posts, trashcans and anywhere else another dog has been.

Dogs tend to “leave things behind,” he said, and when nature calls and they are on the boardwalk it could create a mess for someone else to step in, which could ruin their visit.

“We have a pooper scooper law and people don’t follow that sometimes either, but it’s really a problem when the dog is on the boardwalk and they don’t clean it up,” he said.

Since January, the Ocean City Humane Society is in charge of the city’s animal control department.

“The Humane Society will have a couple of officers on the street, checking up on complaints,” he said. “Playgrounds are a big problem area, particularly at 35th Street.”

A few years ago, City Council passed an ordinance on first reading permitting dogs on the boardwalk in the off-season. The ordinance was suggested by a group of north end residents who wanted to enjoy the boards with their pooches.

At the time, OCPD Chief Chad Callahan made a “health and safety” presentation to council on the issue. He said it would become a huge enforcement problem and create a potentially dangerous environment. Callahan said pups on the boards would not work and the ordinance was tabled before it came up for a second reading.

“We hope people will heed the signs and leave their dogs at home when they go up on the boardwalk,” Ang said, adding that police would also be enforcing the no-smoking ordinance in effect on the boardwalk, as well. There are, he noted, several marked areas where smoking is permitted.




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