OC’s Leash Law Tweaked Due To New Dog Park

OCEAN CITY – The resort’s “four-legged friends” were a topic of discussion once again at Tuesday’s work session at City Hall as the leash law was addressed and faced with a potential change.

Tom Shuster, Recreation and Parks Director, came before the City Council on Tuesday to discuss a proposed ordinance change regarding both the leash laws in Ocean City and the proposed dog park off 94th Street.

Shuster explained that after meeting with Donald Spence and several Animal Control officers and reviewing the current ordinance applying to dogs in recreational areas, he “decided it was appropriate to change the article language.”

Currently, Chapter 6, Article II refers to the leash law in Ocean City and mandates that it is unlawful for dogs to “be in any public recreational area unless such dog is controlled by leash.” Basically this is referring to the law that all dogs must be leashed when in public or recreational areas.

The new dog park on 94th street will allow dogs to enjoy the area without the hindrance of a leash, permitting them to run free within the fenced in park. As a result of the new no-leash dog area, Shuster is proposing a change in the ordinance that will identify such area.

The new ordinance will now read that no dogs will be allowed unleashed in recreational areas, “except in an official off leash area established by Mayor and City Council of Ocean City.” The official off-leash area will be the 94th street dog park located behind the former Ocean Plaza Mall.

Shuster added that he had shared the new ordinance with Police Chief Bernadette DiPino and had received her support on strengthening and clarifying the leash provisions.

The new dog park will be fenced in by a six-foot-gated enclosure with two different areas, one for little dogs weighing 28 pounds or less and one for larger dogs weighing more than 28 pounds. Dogs must be registered with the town before being allowed access to the park. An electronic scanning device that would check an identification card to make sure the user is registered and has paid their fees will regulate access.

As of now, there are two types of registration. One is an annual fee aimed at local dog owners and the second would be for weekly visitors and have a limit of seven or 10 days. It will be the only dog park in Ocean City and will be the only area for off leash dog play.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas clarified that “we still have a leash law everywhere all over town except in this fenced in dog park.”