LONGPORT — There are Downbeach pet owners who love their dogs so much, they do everything with them, including taking them to the beach.
Then, there are those nonpet owners who think public beaches should only be accessible to humans, not their furry friends.
Almost 57% of the United States population owns a pet, and in New Jersey, at least 47% do, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2017-2018 Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. Of that 47%, almost two-thirds are dog owners.
That number is a testament to the dog culture in Longport. The borough recently updated its ordinance allowing dog owners to walk their leashed fur babies from 6:30 to 8:30 am from May 1 to Sept. 30. After September, there are no restrictions on pets on the beaches as long as they are leashed.
On Friday, Lorie and Marc Modelevsky, seasonal residents of Ventnor, were getting ready to walk their 6-year-old English Mastiff, Carson, on the Boardwalk.
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“Our dog doesn’t like walking on the beach, but if he did, we would definitely take him,” Lorie Modelevsky said. “Some people don’t like it, but we’re for it if people clean up and are responsible.”
Longport Commissioner Daniel Lawler said the borough that usually houses about 900 year-round residents see more than 15,000 people during a summer weekend and has been seeing more dogs since the pandemic.
“Longport has always had an ordinance of no dogs on the beach from May 15 to Sept. 15,” said Longport Commissioner Daniel Lawler, a dog owner. “Over the years, a lot of people have come to us, me personally, and said, ‘Why can’t we have dogs on the beach for a couple hours in the morning? Before the crowds get there.’ I have a dog, and my wife walks the dog on the beach almost every morning in the winter, and she’s been asking me as well.”
Lawler said people howling about the dog ordinance are usually people without pets, or those concerned canines will be allowed unleashed. Many believe irresponsible owners won’t clean up after their pets. Lawler said those issues have “never been a problem.”
“We listened to the public, and one person got up and complained about the dogs on the beach, while I think seven or eight people who have dogs said they wanted the dogs,” Lawler said about the public hearing portion of a council meeting last month at which the commissioners voted on the dog ordinance.
Since the ordinance was changed, Lawler has received no complaints from the city or residents, and has even checked in with the lifeguards, public works, police, and other city departments to see if there has been an uptick in dog waste or people being issued tickets for not complying with the ordinance.
The Modelevskys said as far as they could see, dog owners were following the ordinance. The dogs they do see on the beach are always leashed and dog waste responsible is always fetched by owners, including during the busy Fourth of July weekend, when there were more dogs on the beach and Boardwalk than usual.
“If people are responsible, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Lorie Modelevsky.
Other Downbeach areas, such as Ventnor, have their own dogs-on-the-beach ordinances. From May 15 to Sept. 30, leashed dogs are allowed on the beach from 7 pm to 9 pm, but only on the areas washed by the high tide line. From October until May, leashed dogs are allowed on the beach at any time in those high tide line areas.
“We don’t get many complaints. Most people comply,” Ventnor Clerk Lisa Hand said about the city ordinance allowing dogs on the beach, which was updated in 2019. “The complaints we do get, which are few, have to do with dogs being unleashed while on the beach.”
Brigantine’s dog ordinance doesn’t allow dogs on any public beaches between 14th Street North and the southwestern most portion of the island between May 30 and Sept. 30. The ordinance stipulates dogs are allowed on the beach from Oct. 1 to May 29 if leashed and accompanied by a person.
“It has not been changed recently and will not be. We don’t get many calls about dogs on the main beaches,” Brigantine City Manager James Bennett said. “There’s probably more online complaining than anything. PD are on the beaches and will remove someone and their dog if they witness it.”
In Margate, dogs aren’t allowed on their beaches at all. Those who violate the ordinance could incur a $100 fine.
And, while Longport has a designated dog beach on Ocean Drive where pets can be leashed or unleashed, many are turned off by the amount of dog waste on the beach, which has no trash cans.
“The dog beach is an undesirable place for dogs and humans,” said Marc Modelevsky.