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Comments & Curiosities: Figuring out the dog days of winter

October 09, 2010|By Peter Buffa

These are difficult times.

You don't need me to tell you that. There are issues and problems by the boatload to be dealt with right now, some more important than others.

This week, the city of Newport Beach finally turned its attention to an issue that affects each and every one of us and is a true measure of what we stand for as a people and as a nation. Here is the question: Should dogs be banned on local beaches eight hours a day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round, or should the sand pooches get an extra 90 minutes, at least in the winter months? Or, or, or — this is the last one, promise — should all the beach pooch restrictions be lifted entirely?

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The Newport Beach Parks, Beaches and Recreation Commission has been wrestling with this for months, and I totally feel their pain. This is important. As a former public official, I am fully aware that you think long and hard and look deep into your soul before you vote yes on no on something like this. Last summer, the commission recommended to the City Council that dog day afternoons, and mornings, be extended by an hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon. The council considered the change, pondered it, chewed on it then sent it back to the commission for more analysis, consultation, deliberation and documentation.

At their meeting on Tuesday, the commission voted to send the council their revised, reconsidered and reevaluated recommendation. It suggests extending the poochable hours on some beaches — but not on harbor beaches — where water quality is an issue. And, and as you know, dogs have a number of habits that are not conducive to water quality. The new recommendations also suggest that the city find some moola, through grants perhaps, to install "doggy bag" dispensers along the beaches, which are like the things you take the rest of your seared ahi salad home in but not exactly. The commission also asked staff to research increasing the fines for humans who do not have their dog on a leash or do not pick up their dog's calling card should they drop one on the sand, which is not cool.

Both the commission and council have heard some spirited opinions on all this, from dog owners who want the restrictions loosened or eliminated — perhaps we should choose another word — and from non-dog owners who want the restrictions tightened up, if not a total, complete and absolute pooch-ban on the beaches.

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