WILDWOOD — The city’s beaches have hosted everything from monster truck rallies to an estimated 30,000 country music fans, so why not add a few dogs to the mix?
Commissioner Pete Byron has been looking into designating a dog-friendly beach for about a year, and on Wednesday City Commission introduced an ordinance to open the beach in the area of Poplar Avenue to dogs.
“Being pet-friendly is just a great way to promote our town,” Byron said Wednesday. “It’s a great tourism tool.”
According to the American Pet Products Association trade organization, at least 47 percent of American households have at least one dog.
Currently, dogs are permitted on Wildwood’s beach only in the offseason.
The exisitng city ordinance reads, “No animals of any kind shall be permitted on boardwalk or boardwalk approaches at any time. No animals of any kind shall be permitted on the beach from May 15 of each year to Oct. 2 of each year.”
Neighboring towns have similar rules. In Wildwood Crest, dogs are not permitted on the beach from May 1 to Sept. 30.
Byron envisions a Wildwood beach complete with water stations and possibly other amenities, where visitors and their four-legged friends could frolic in the water together.
The addition of a pet beach follows other tourism industry efforts to embrace pet owners and their dollars. Showboat Casino Hotel, for instance, was the first Atlantic City casino to allow dogs.
“Since its debut in 2011, Showboat’s Pet Stay offering has been an overwhelmingly successful added amenity for guests and visitors, and a true win for the property itself,” said Stephen Thayer, vice president of hotel operations for the Showboat, Caesars and Bally’s casinos. “Pet Stay is here to stay, and we can conceivably see the program extending to additional Caesars Entertainment Atlantic City properties in the near future.”
Bob Ferguson, owner of the Rus Mar Motel in the southern end of Wildwood, said the move to encourage pet owners to visit the city could benefit his nine-unit motel.
The property on Ocean Avenue is one of the island’s few motels found on travel sites such as bringfido.com.
“That’s going in the right direction. The city needs a pet-friendly beach,” he said.
Ferguson said 60 percent to 70 percent of his guests come with dogs in tow. “It’s a niche market,” he said.
The proposed dog beach would be a trek for his guests but would still be closer than other areas, such as Sunset Beach in Lower Township.
Byron said the city would permit dogs to cross the Boardwalk to get to the beach at designated locations under the new ordinance.
The move, he said, could encourage other motels to allow pets, possibly encouraging longer stays.
“We’re going to turn a daytripper into a motel stay,” he said. “People plan their vacations around where they can take their pets.”
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