Dogs Running on Beaches: a Bigger Issue Than You Think

A piece in 'Hakai Magazine' lays out the problem, which lies with humans, not canines
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2023 9:29 AM CDT
We May Have to Rethink Bucolic Scenes Like This
Good times, though maybe not for the plover.   (Getty / Prensis)

When it comes to pets-as-predators, cats are usually cast as the villains. After all, as Ben Goldfarb writes for Hakai Magazine, they kill an estimated 4 billion birds in the US each year. But Goldfarb's piece focuses not on felines but canines, and specifically how dogs—unleashed ones—wreak havoc on beaches. "Man’s best friend is a shorebird’s worst enemy," reads the headline, which explores the problem and what it might take for dog owners (like himself) to remedy it. Because as his story points out, many nature-loving dog owners gleefully ignore signs requiring leashes: It looks so natural and fun to let a dog run full steam on the beach, maybe chase a flock of birds. If beaches attempt to crack down with leash laws or outright bans, things can take a nasty turn as dog owners revolt against policies they see view as unfairly directed at members of their family.

But there's more to it. On the Gulf Coast, for instance, many shorebirds are migrants there to rest and refuel, and if dogs keep disrupting this, the birds may not make the next stage of their journey. Goldfarb's analogy: "Imagine you’ve just gotten home from work and want nothing more than to chill on the couch with a beer—and then a pack of barking dogs tears into the house and chases you outside, over and over again." Then there's the disturbance of nests, the killing (sometimes inadvertently, sometimes in what is described as "massacres") of penguin chicks and the like. As Goldfarb writes, it's not the dogs' fault. They're being dogs. It's ours. "We rationalize their misdeeds, overrate their training, prioritize their pleasure over other beings’ right to exist," he writes. "Love is not only blind, it’s blinding." Read the full piece. (Or read other longform stories.)

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