NORFOLK, Virginia – Cayla Harper’s two jobs require her to keep her cool. She interacts with the public, helping those in distress, even saving lives as she divides her summer weeks between her job as a firefighter / doctor and lifeguard supervisor.
But there is one thing that really bothers her: the owners bring their dogs to the beach when the sand is warm.
“It makes me jump through the roof,” she said.
Harper, 30, is on a mission to educate beachgoers that the sand can reach scorching temperatures and burn their pets’ paw pads. She loves dogs and takes her black German Shepherd to the North End on a chilly evening. And while water rescue is her primary focus while patrolling the beach in an all-terrain vehicle, she wears an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of the sand.
It was 145 degrees on a recent sunny afternoon.
Pets are not allowed on the resort beach – 1st through 42nd Street – from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Bringing a pet there can result in a fine of up to $ 250.
Dogs on a leash are allowed on the Boardwalk from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and in other towns and beaches before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
And while the rule is posted in fine print at the bottom of signs at beach entrances, Harper said that in recent years, some people didn’t know they were breaking the law or didn’t care.
“Owning a dog has become much more popular,” said Harper. “Everyone now wants to take their dog everywhere with them. “
Harper said recently that she saw a dog moaning as he tried to keep his paws off the sand. She took the puppy off the beach.
“Most of the time, owners are oblivious, especially if they have shoes on,” she said. “Take off your shoes; if it’s uncomfortable, it’s too hot for the dogs.
When Harper sees someone with a dog, she shows him how hot the sand is on his thermometer.
“It gives people concrete evidence,” she said.
Yet not everyone wants to comply.
“You get people who are angry or upset because you are ruining their day at the beach,” Harper said.
That’s when she calls for help.
Animal control officer Andrew Equels also patrols the beach on an ATV, and sometimes Harper calls him or the police when people refuse to take their dogs off the beach.
“We are asking that the dog be removed,” Equels said. “They can receive a summons if they refuse to comply.”
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