Where you can take your dog along the Jersey Shore (LBI-Cape May)

dog-guide-mapIf you want to take your dog to the shore, some towns are just more dog friendly than others. For dog owners it means knowing whether you’re in “summer season” or not, which can vary among towns, to knowing what time the lifeguards go home.

Trying to keep it all straight isn’t easy. Brigantine allows leashed dogs all year north of 14th Street, and Stone Harbor is fine with leashed dogs strolling the beach on summer evenings, after the lifeguards are off duty and the crowds have thinned. Cape May is considering easing its dog rules, and Wildwood has closed its popular dog beach after complaints for some business owners.

Here’s a rundown of the rules for shore towns, from north to south:

Long Beach Island – There is a single dog park in LBI, on West 10th Street in Barnegat Light. “All licensed well behaved dogs are welcome,” according to officials. Throughout the six municipalities on the barrier island, dogs are not allowed on the beach from May 1 until Oct. 1, although some specific rules may vary.

Brigantine – From 14th Street south, no dogs are allowed on the beach from May 30 to Sept. 30, and from Oct. 1 to May 29, they are allowed on a leash no more than 6 feet long. No dogs on the promenade or in playgrounds, period. The ordinance doesn’t specify this, but from 14th Street north, in the quieter section of town, they are allowed on leash through the summer. There is also a wide natural area in the north end of the barrier island, which is listed on some sites as dog friendly. In fact, one says there are no dog restrictions at all, but this is not true. Here, as in the other state-owned natural areas on the beach, dogs are not allowed at all from April 1 to Sept. 15, primarily to protect endangered beach nesting birds like the least tern, the piping plover, and others.

Atlantic City-area – America’s Playground is becoming more dog friendly but they are not allowed on the beach or Boardwalk during the peak summer season. Off season, Sept 15 – May 1, dogs are allowed on the boardwalk. You will also find more pet friendly hotels and accommodations in town, including the Showboat on the Boardwalk Three other municipalities share Absecon Island, the barrier island that includes Atlantic City. Moving south to Ventnor, no dogs on the boardwalk, but in the off season, leashed dogs are allowed on the beach, but only in the area that will be washed over by the incoming tide. In Margate, no animals are allowed on the beach, according to the city’s website, and a press statement from a recent summer suggested violations from Memorial Day to Labor Day could mean a $1,000 fine.

Egg Harbor Township – This state natural area on Ocean Drive between Somers Point and Longport is one of the best known dog friendly spots at the shore. Although many sources state this is a leash-free area for dogs, and some regular users will chastise someone who does keep their dog leashed, state officials say all dogs are supposed to be on leash at all times. There is a parking lot at the foot of the Ocean City-Longport bridge, and there is no fee or registration to use the area, which is also open to fishing and other uses.

Ocean City – Ocean City requires leashes for dogs at all times. They are not allowed on the beach in the summer, nor on the boardwalk ever, aside from the hundreds of dogs that participate in the Doo Dah Parade each spring. “In the winter it’s no problem, as long as they’re on a leash, but in the summer not at all,” said Doug Bergen, Ocean City’s public information officer. For the most part, a dog off leash in the dead of winter won’t even be noticed.

The Corson’s Inlet State Park in the south end allows leashed dogs until April 1, but after that, enforcement is particularly strict out of concern for the endangered nesting birds in the natural area. Cape May County has a dog park in Ocean City at 45th Street and Haven Avenue, west of West Avenue, which is managed by Ocean City. Membership is $30 a year, or $40 for those who live outside of the county, and the gates cannot be opened without a current pass. The park includes separate areas for large and small dogs, as well as a run for dogs who don’t play well with others. The dog park has an active membership, with a devoted group of regulars. For more details, see www.oceancitydogpark.org.

Upper Township – This sprawling mainland community includes bay beaches and the Strathmere area that shares an island with Sea Isle City and has an anything-goes reputation for tolerating dogs on the beach, one that is not exactly accurate. In the areas where lifeguards are on duty, the guards will usually ask beach-goers to take their dogs from the beach, and in the unguarded areas and before and after the guards are on duty, the posted rules still say no dogs are allowed, even though it may be unlikely anyone will complain. Upper Township also has a big, grassy dog park is in an out-of-the-way corner of the Tuckahoe section of town, on Mount Pleasant Road. There is a membership fee, $30 for the year or $10 a week, which includes a key fob that unlocks the electronic door. There’s an application at uppertownship.com, under parks and recreation.

Stone Harbor – Like most shore towns, Stone Harbor allows dogs on the beach from October until the end of May, but it may be unique in its approach to people walking their dogs on thebeach in the summer; from 7 p.m. until sunset, dogs are welcome on the beach if they are on a leash.

“It seems to work very well. I don’t really get many complaints,” said Jill Gougher, Stone Harbor’s administrator. Owners are expected to pick up after their pets, and she said while she occasionally gets complaints about dogs using the borough’s grassy medians, she hasn’t heard any about the beach. According to Gougher, no one will make a fuss if someone is on the beach with their dog in the early morning before the beach crowds arrive, and even if the lifeguards find someone with a dog during the day, they’ll probably just remind them of the rules and ask them to leave.

At the far south end of the island, from 127th Street until Hereford Inlet, is a protected natural area, home to numerous species of beach nesting birds. Gougher said dogs are never allowed in that area, leash or no leash, to protect the wildlife there.

Stone Harbor’s immediate neighbor Avalon, with which it shares an island, does not allow dogs anywhere on the beach or dunes from March 1 to Sept. 30.

The Wildwoods – Wildwood has closed its wildly popular dog beach. But officials say they’re working to secure another site that is bigger and more open than the Poplar Avenue location along the boardwalk, known for its 25-foot tall fire hydrant sculpture.

A dog park opened in North Wildwood last year, also on the beach. That one is at 24th Street and costs $10 for the year. Owners must show their dog is licensed, but not necessarily licensed in North Wildwood. In 2015, Wildwood Crest also explored creating a dog park, with an eye toward placing it on the beach, but some residents wanted the borough commissioners to look elsewhere.

Cape May – There is a members-only dog park on Lafayette Street, not far from a playground and the Cape May Elementary School. While there is a membership fee, it’s on the honor system, with no lock on the dog park gates. According to Linda Steenrod, a former City Council member, that was a deliberate choice, so that no one would feel unwelcome. She and her husband donated the water source, and another business owner donated a gazebo so patrons have some shade. Cape May has recently discussed allowing dogs on the beach, although that never moved past the discussion phase, but Steenrod said there is a proposal set to come in front of City Council to allow dogs on the Washington Street Mall, a popular pedestrian-only shopping area where dogs are now banned entirely, although some people with small breed dogs visit anyway.

No dogs are allowed at the Cape May Point State Park, which includes a wide stretch of undeveloped beach. Some visitors take their dogs to the nearby Higbee Beach Wildlife Management area, which faces the Delaware Bay. Although typically there isn’t much enforcement there, the rules are no dogs in the summer.

On other beaches in nearby Lower Township, dogs are allowed all day in the off season, but the township recently changed the rules, so that Memorial Day to Labor Day, dogs aren’t allowed on those beaches from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Steenrod says she and other dog lovers welcomed that change, because it still allows a place for dogs, but means they won’t be on the beach in the heat of the day, or when the beaches are the most crowded and there is a greater chance sunbathers being bothered by someone’s dog.

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