An overwhelming majority of dog owners failed to comply fully with a city ordinance regulating dogs at Willard Beach from May through September, according to data collected during patrols by members of Volunteers in Police Service — or VIPS.

During a six-week period in August and September, the volunteers made a dozen visits and observed a total of 127 dogs and 113 violations. When volunteers explained the ordinance, 106 dog owners complied. Ninety-three people said they were not familiar with the ordinance.

The patrols took place primarily between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. During the five-month period in question, dogs are allowed on the beach only from 7 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Evenings, which generate the most complaints, are a time when regular officers are busier on other calls, said Officer Linda Barker, program coordinator of the Community Response Unit.

Willard Beach was the focus of a contentious ballot question last year. Voters, by a 60-40 margin, rejected a proposal to ban dogs from the beach at all times during warmer months.

Most of the violations recorded by the volunteers stemmed from having a dog on the beach outside the allowed time periods, Barker said, but there were a few for failing to pick up waste and failing to keep the dog under voice control.

A small number of dog owners were disrespectful to the VIPS, but that was the exception, Barker said.

“Overwhelmingly, the response was positive, even from the people who were doing things they shouldn’t be,” she said.

Barker’s report made five recommendations: post signs that are bigger and explain the ordinance better; attach a copy of the dog ordinance to dog license renewals or tax bills; have volunteers put together a public service announcement to air on the community access channel; expand VIPS beach patrol hours; and have VIPS collect identifying information about violators for the animal control officer, who would follow up on repeat violators.

Police Chief Ed Googins said some of the recommendations would be easy to implement.

“The presence on the beach of the volunteers overall was very helpful,” he said. “It did give us a very good assessment of what’s going on there when uniformed police officers aren’t present.”

 

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]