By Meg Olson
Local sheriff’s deputy Tom McCarthy and his supervisor, Sergeant Kevin Moyes, met with a small group of community members when the hot-button issue of issuing citations to owners of off-leash dogs was on the agenda for the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC).
Committee member John Lesow requested the item be on the agenda for the October 13 meeting. “Community sentiment is for less rigorous or predatory enforcement of the leash law,” Lesow said.
Lesow also asked that the committee move quickly on a proposal endorsed by a majority of Point Roberts Taxpayers Association members to make a portion of Lighthouse Marine Park and Maple Beach a designated off-leash area.
Moyes responded the law in Whatcom County states dogs be on a leash on public property, and the sheriff’s office’s role was to enforce that law. “We’re not selective in deciding what we’re going to do, though we do have discretion,” he said. Moyes said the recent uptick in enforcement of the leash law was in response to complaints. “Someone shouldn’t have to worry about going to a park that is a leashed area and dealing with off-leash dogs,” he said.
However, when Lesow asked if any citations were issued in response to a specific complaint about a dog, McCarthy said they were not. “I just drive around,” he said.
Moyes said that in the last three months deputies had issued 17 tickets for speeding, 16 stop sign violations and 11 dog-at-large citations out of a total of 59 reports during that period.
Asked why they hadn’t made a greater effort to educate the public that the leash law, which has not been enforced on the Point, was going to be strictly enforced prior to handing out tickets, McCarthy said from the time he started as the Point’s resident deputy in June until Labor Day he had given out warnings.
“You see people walking right past the signs and then you hear, ‘It’s just Point Roberts, we do this.’ Nobody listens. Nobody cares,” McCarthy said. “I looked at that and said OK, fine. Under new management. You can only tell your kid to clean up their room or do the dishes so many times before you have to do something.” He added since the rash of ticketing he has seen a sharp decrease in off-leash dogs.
McCarthy also suggested dogs have plenty of places to swim off-leash on the Point. “There are only three public beaches in Point Roberts,” he said, while the rest are privately owned. “The leash law does not apply [to the private beaches].”
An audience member suggested going from “zero to 100 percent” enforcement was excessive when “generally, things weren’t broken.” McCarthy responded that despite the outcry from dog owners, many community members had thanked him. “I think there were lots of problems with dogs,” he said. Pola Krnan agreed.
“I’ve been attacked, I’ve been made fun of,” Krnan said.
“We do need to have a place for dogs to run,” said Carol Fuegi with the Point Roberts Animal Welfare Society. PRCAC will pursue designating sections of county parks off-leash areas or establishing off-leash times.
At their October 14 meeting local parks commissioners also discussed off-leash options for Baker Field.