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Pawleys Island: Town rejects proposal to let dogs off the leash

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A proposal to let unleashed dogs back into the water at Pawleys Island was brought up short this week when the police chief and Town Council members agreed it would be hard to enforce. The town’s leash law will continue to mirror the state law that requires dogs to be on a leash when off their owner’s property.

Until 2009, the town allowed dogs to be under voice command from October to May and from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the summer. Even after eliminating those exemptions, owners were allowed to play with their dogs in the surf. This year the town cracked down after receiving complaints about dogs running loose on the beach. Town Council amended the leash law to make it clear that it applies to dogs on the beach even when that beach is included in a property owner’s deed through a king’s grant.

After hearing from owners at a town hall meeting in the spring and at a council meeting last month who want to be able to let their dogs run in the surf, Mayor Bill Otis proposed a change to the leash law. It would have designated areas in front of public beach accesses and in front of private beach walkways where dogs could be under voice command. At private walkways, the exemption would only apply to the property owner or renters.

“It’s so convoluted it would be almost impossible to explain and enforce properly,” Police Chief Mike Fanning told council members. Officers would have to stop each dog owner to find out if they were in compliance, he said. And officers would have to explain why some got tickets while others did not.

“If we’re looking to make a compromise, set up an early morning session,” Fanning said.

It would be easier to enforce off-leash hours that off-leash zones, Council Member Ashley Carter said. Signs would help, he added, “proper signage like we used to have.”

Council Member Mike Adams wondered if the ordinance could be challenged if it’s less restrictive than state law. “If it’s challenged, it’s challenged,” Town Attorney David DuRant said.

The current law is the easiest to enforce, Fanning said. Before 2009, there were complaints from people who questioned whether owners had voice command over their dogs. “We received a lot of complaints,” Fanning said.

Questioned by council, Fanning said he believes if the town goes back to allowing dogs to be under voice command “those complaints and those issues will arise again.”

Council took no action on the proposal. Otis, who was out of town this week, said after the meeting that he wasn’t surprised. He developed the idea based on comments from the property owners. “I thought it was pretty complicated,” he said. “I tried to put something together that didn’t revert to where we were eight years ago.”

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