Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Pleasure Island town overturns 20-year ordinance excluding dogs from beach

Kure Beach joins the majority of local beaches allowing dogs on its beaches some hours during the summer, leaving Wrightsville Beach as the last remaining holdout. (PCD/Mike Kane)

KURE BEACH — Who let the dogs out? Well, Kure Beach.

On Monday, town officials voted 3-2 to amend an ordinance that barred dogs from the shore during the summer season. Pet owners can bring leashed dogs on the beach between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. from April 1 through Sept. 30. Service dogs are exempt from the time restrictions.

The decision overrules a more than 20-year-old ordinance in the town. However, it will not take effect until the town votes on an amendment, to most likely delay the new implementation until next season. 

“There’s been a change in attitudes towards dogs. They are more of a family member now than they’ve ever been,” Commissioner Dennis Panicalil said in the meeting.

Kure Beach joins the majority of local beaches allowing dogs on its beaches some hours during the summer, leaving Wrightsville Beach as the last remaining holdout. 

“We are not consistent with most of the towns in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Panicalil said in the meeting.

The town estimates $3,000 to $4,000 would be needed to erect new signage. New waste bag stations, between $75 to $150, would be installed at the beach’s 24 access points. 

A presentation facilitating Monday’s discussion lists gathered pros and cons to the ordinance change. Panicalil said public support was around 60% to 70% in favor of changing the ordinance according to email and in-person feedback he’d received. 

He suggested pros include: 

  • Opportunity for dogs and owners to exercise
  • Reducing rule confusion
  • Accommodating a changing attitude to dogs and increased ownership
  • Becoming consistent with other beach towns
  • Responding to the rule that is already abused by patrons
  • Reducing the “excessive” six-week ban

Seemingly, there were fewer cons he addressed: 

  • Increased dog waste and barking dogs,
  • Possibility of uncontrolled animals
  • Health risks associated with dogs on the hot beach
  • Increased enforcement
  • Reverting a years-long tradition

Differing rules from its beach-town neighbors Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher State Park played a part in the town’s decision. Dog walkers easily crossed onto Kure’s 3.5 miles of beach from other beaches and often did not realize they were doing so; Panicalil said it made the ordinance harder to justify. Now all of the towns on Pleasure Island will have consistent beach ordinances regarding pets.

“Enforcement is an issue,” Panicalil said in the meeting.

Council discussed the high-volume of beach visitors that violate the current ordinance, citing they “don’t know” about the rule despite signage posted across the 44 beach accesses. Some members said beachgoers are willfully ignorant of the rule while others said the town could make efforts to increase the effectiveness of its notifications.

“It’s why Carolina Beach went to the beach rangers so that they have someone there rather than lifeguards patrolling enforcement,” Panicalil said during discussion.

The Town of Carolina Beach hired a beach ranger in 2017 to make sure beachgoers were following local ordinances. While the Kure Beach council discussed incorporating rangers for its beaches, no decision was made on that topic. 

The text amendments will be presented at next month’s town council meeting on Aug. 15. Dogs are still not allowed on the beach at this time.

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com 

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