Did you know... that dogs are never, ever allowed on all ocean beaches that are part of the New Hampshire state park system?
That includes Hampton Beach, North Beach in Hampton, North Hampton State Beach, and Jenness Beach and Wallis Sands in Rye. That includes summer and winter, fall and spring. That includes dawn and dusk, and days when the weather is so awful that almost nobody wants to go to the beach anyway.
You are amazed, right? Because you see dogs on some of these beaches a lot. Okay, for proof here is a link to the NH State Parks Pets Policy. If a park isn't on the list, no pets are permitted. None of our ocean beaches make the list.
This is a dumb law, for two reasons.
1. It is inconsistent with dog rules in effect at all town beaches in the Seacoast. Town beaches and state beaches are sometimes immediately adjacent to each other, with no visible boundary mark. This is especially true on either side of Jenness Beach and the southern end of North Hampton State Beach, and these state beaches are important access points onto these town beaches.
2. The no-dogs rule is so inconsistently enforced that people don't realize it is a law. People see dogs on strands like North Beach after dinner on pleasant summer evenings, for example, and think dogs must be allowed there - so they bring their own dogs to the beach too.
At North Hampton State Beach, there is just one sign that says “No Dogs” (and for several years it was too faded to read). If you don’t happen to enter the beach through an opening in the wall near that sign, you would not know it’s the rule.
The town laws make more sense. In general, owner-supervised, well-behaved dogs are permitted at all times in the off season; in summer, they are allowed to romp and play and swim and sniff on town beaches in the early mornings and in the evenings.
From the Hampton Police Department Animal Control Ordinance page, Sec. 1:111: "A. Animals will be permitted on the Town of Hampton beaches from Labor Day to Memorial Day any time. Section 1:110 (Animal Waste) will be enforced throughout the year. B. Animals will be allowed on the Town of Hampton Beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day only after 6 p.m. in the evening and before 8 a.m. in the morning."
In North Hampton, "It shall be unlawful for any dog to run at large an any bathing beach between the hours of 10:00AM and 6:00PM from June 15th to September 15th of each year." But that does not supercede the state no-dogs rule at North Hampton State Beach, so presumably it only applies at rocky Bass Beach.
From the Rye Police Department Beach Information page: "Dogs are prohibited from town beaches from 9am to 7pm beginning the Saturday before Memorial Day and ending the Saturday after Labor Day. Dogs are never permitted at state beaches and parks. Dog waste must be picked up immediately by its owner."
In my dreams, every beach in the Seacoast permits dogs after hours in summer (with dates and times consistent from town to town!) and at all times in the off season. And of course my dreams include consistent enforcement, clear signage and, most importantly, conscientious dog owners who pick up after their (polite and non-scary) pets.