An increasing number of Long Beach residents have been barking at city officials to do something about dog owners who take their pets out and leave their leashes at home.

City Council members Kristina Duggan and Daryl Supernaw have both mentioned the issue in recent newsletters to constituents, and Long Beach Animal Care Services Director Staycee Dains said this week that in the last few months she’s noticed “a huge uptick in reports” of dogs off-leash.

Long Beach, like most cities, requires dogs to be kept on a leash anywhere in public, other than a designated dog park or beach. But judging by the complaints the city has been getting, many people treat the rule as optional.

“I wouldn’t walk her down the street off of her leash,” resident Darien Stratton said while throwing a ball for her leashless dog Thursday in the grass at Bixby Park.

The fenced-off dog area at Bixby is often muddy and the larger park is rarely crowded, Stratton said, plus her dog is friendly and likes people, so “I wouldn’t worry that she would attack anyone ever.”

Some people find that attitude infuriating—a recent Reddit post was rife with stories of people being bitten by off-leash dogs or getting yelled at by their owners for asking them to leash up—but it’s not a problem to Lorrie Degnan, who lives near Bixby Park and was there Thursday with her small dog, Hollywood, who had on a pink sweatshirt—and a leash.

“I don’t have an issue with it,” she said. “Any dog in this area has been a good dog.”

But plenty of people disagree, and city officials have been getting an earful from them.

“People are afraid of off-leash dogs,” Councilmember Duggan said. “If you’re afraid of a dog and you’re in a park, they’re saying, ‘I’m not going to that park.’”

Everyone uses parks, including small children and older adults who could get knocked over or tripped by a big dog; an unleashed dog could run into the street and be hit by a car; and a couple of weeks ago, a Long Beach dog owner had to take their pet to an emergency vet after it found and ate some cannabis while roaming outside off-leash, Dains said.

People can call animal control about off-leash dogs, but Dains said with a limited number of staff, it’s hard for them to show up before the culprits leave. Animal Care Services recently increased its targeted patrolling efforts, but the department would need more officers to step up enforcement.

Councilmember Supernaw said the citations and fines—more than 300 tickets were given out last year—don’t seem to be reining in the problem.

“We are enforcing it and a percentage of the population still doesn’t get it,” he said, so he’ll be suggesting more funding for animal control officers as the city drafts its budget for next fiscal year, a process that’s underway.

Dains said there are 12 designated dog parks in Long Beach where canines can run free, and people who don’t like those or want a more customized experience could try Sniffspot, an app that lets you rent a private pet play space (usually someone’s fenced yard) for an hourly fee.

But when you’re anywhere out in public, Dains said, “there’s a lot of really good reasons to keep your dog on a leash—best case scenario, your dog off-leash is annoying; worst case scenario, it’s tragic.”