About that dog attack this weekend: Know this before taking your pup to the beach this summer

(Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Emergency services responded to the Oceanfront when multiple concerned beachgoers called to report a dog attack on Sunday.

Virginia Beach Animal Control announced in a Facebook post that a small dog had died, “once on scene, animal control and police officers learned that a small Shih-Tzu mix breed dog was being walked on a leash on the sand by its owner when a grey pitt type dog running at large attacked the small dog.”

Consequently, the large dog is in Animal Control custody, and its owner Kristin Foster arrested on suspicion of public intoxication — with animal violation charges pending.

As a reminder for those wanting to take their dogs to the water this summer, dogs are allowed to be off leash during certain months and hours on the sand beach.

What are the rules?

Virginia Beach City Code 6.5 outlines rules for pet owners during the spring, and peak season which spans from 6 p.m. Friday before Memorial Day to 6 p.m. on Labor Day.

During peak season, pets are allowed on beaches outside of Rudlee and 42nd (resort areas) between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. if leashed or “under the control of the owner,” according to the city code.

“Under the control of the owner can be interpreted as if the dog responds to its owner’s voice and the owner feels comfortable with that,” said a spokesperson for Virginia Beach Animal Control.

As long as they’re on a leash, pets can be on the boardwalk and grassy area to the west of the boardwalk from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. during the summer.

It is against the law to fail to maintain control of your pet.

The debate

Last month, the Virginia Beach Police Department had a public forum seeking feedback on a proposed change to the city code that would require all dogs to be leashed on the beach at all times.

Animal control cited data on the city page’s event announcement, “In 2018, there were 15 such incidents, 11 of which involved off-leash dogs. And, two unleashed dogs attacked and killed a small on-leash dog on the beach near 55th Street.”

Related Story: If you let your dog run on the beach, you’ll want to go to this

While some community members feel the proposed changes are necessary, others like members of public Facebook community, Virginia Beach Free Paws say dogs are residents, too.

Virginia Beach native and House of Delegates candidate, Gayle Johnson, started a petition proposing a Citizens Advisory Committee and said she garnered “something like 23 pages of responses from members of the community, each with important input.”

“We hope that the Citizen’s Council will be able to clarify existing laws and, if necessary, figure out better laws for keeping our citizens, our guests, and our pets safe,” Johnson said.

City Council decided to “table” the proposed change and assemble the advisory committee stating on the city’s website, “Animal Control will monitor and evaluate situations involving dogs on beaches over the next year.”

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Lucretia Cunningham is a multimedia journalist at Southside Daily covering hyper-local stories in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Her stories focus on public safety, tourism, and city government. She is a Virginia transplant and military spouse originally from Chicago. Lucretia also served on active duty from 2006 to 2016 and started her journalism career as a broadcaster in the Virginia Air National Guard. When she’s not covering stories on the Southside, she’s covering stories with her Air National Guard unit.