Dogs on the beach

Hilton Head is awaiting a S.C. Attorney General’s Office ruling on whether pets must be leashed on town beaches.Hilton Head Island dog owners are still waiting to hear whether they will continue to be allowed to let their canines run leash-free.

At press time for this issue of Hilton Head Monthly, town officials were awaiting a final ruling from the state Attorney General’s Office on the issue that arose earlier this year when the town became aware that its local ordinances regarding pets on the beach was at odds with a state leash law. While Hilton Head allows dogs to run free on the beaches during the off-season and before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. during the summer, state law dictates all dogs must be on leashes whenever they are off their owner’s property.

Forming an opinion on the matter is complicated because there is no precedent for it, said Mark Plowden, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. Hilton Head officials submitted a detailed request about the issue, he said. Pawley’s Island has already changed its law to ban unleashed dogs from the beach to keep their local ordinances in accordance with state law.

The opinions “take as long as the research does,” he said. “The research is proceeding at a fair pace. … This is all unique territory for this office.”