Beach Access and Park Issues
April 20, 2009

Park Service will crack down on unleashed dogs on beaches

Park Service officials announced in a recent press release that there will be a focused effort this season to improve compliance with leash laws on Cape Hatteras National Seashore to protect wildlife.

Existing National Park Service regulations require dogs to be leashed in all units of the national park system. 

The national seashore serves as breeding habitat for a variety of protected shorebird and waterbird species and as nesting habitat for several species of sea turtles.  Many of these protected bird species nest on bare sandy beaches and the nests are often not readily apparent to park visitors.  The disturbance from dogs running off-leash can interrupt breeding behavior and cause incubating birds to leave their nest, which exposes the nest to predators.  Once disturbed, birds may abandon nesting at those locations altogether.

In 2008, NPS law enforcement rangers documented more than 700 cases of dogs off-leash at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which included numerous violations on beaches near resource protection areas that had been established to prevent disturbance or harm to nesting or foraging protected wildlife species. 

“To minimize impacts to wildlife and still allow as much visitor access as possible under the terms of the consent decree, we are intent on improving the level of visitor compliance with the leash requirement,” said Superintendent Mike Murray.  “I have directed park staff to step up their efforts to inform pet owners of the federal leash regulation and to target enforcement of the regulation in wildlife areas.”

Park rangers can issue federal violation notices carrying a $150 fine to any pet owner who does not comply with the leash requirement.  Pets are prohibited in resource protection areas.  Elsewhere, pets must be physically restrained at all times on a leash not exceeding 6 feet in length.


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