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Note to dog owners: Hot sand burns pets' paws, too

Stacy Parker, The Virginian-Pilot on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

NORFOLK, Va. — Cayla Harper’s two jobs require her to keep her cool. She interacts with the public, helping people in distress, even saving lives as she splits her summer weeks between working as a firefighter/medic and a lifeguard supervisor.

But there’s one thing that really bothers her: owners bringing their dogs to the beach when the sand is hot.

“It sends me through the roof,” she said.

Harper, 30, is on a mission to inform beachgoers that the sand can reach scorching temperatures and will burn their pets’ paw pads. She loves dogs and takes her black German Shepherd to the North End on cool evenings. And while water rescue is her main focus when she patrols the beach on an all-terrain vehicle, she carries a infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of the sand.

On a recent sunny afternoon, it was 145 degrees.

Animals are prohibited on the resort area beach — from 1st to 42nd streets — from the Friday before Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Bringing a pet there can result in a fine up to $250.


Leashed dogs are allowed on the Boardwalk from 6 to 10 a.m., and on other city the beaches before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

And while the rule is posted in small print on the bottom of signs at the beach entrances, Harper said over the last few years some people either don’t know they’re breaking the law or don’t care.

“Owning a dog has gotten a lot more popular,” Harper said. “Everybody wants to bring their dog with them everywhere now.”

Harper said recently she saw a dog whimpering as it tried to keep its paws off the sand. She carried the puppy off of the beach.


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