Volusia County’s beach goers must continue to leave their dogs at home after the county council voted Tuesday not to open any of the Atlantic beaches to pets.
Councilors Billie Wheeler, Ben Johnson, Heather Post, Barbara Girtman and Danny Robins voted with a majority. Chairman Jeff Brower was the only opposition vote, and Councilor Fred Lowry was absent from the vote.
Johnson said dogs don’t belong everywhere. He mentioned potential problems with dog bites and litter left behind.
“Not everyone likes dogs. Some are extremely afraid of dogs,” he said. “At this point, our best course of action is not to take any action.”
Wheeler said she was opposed to allowing dogs in heavily congested areas like the heartland of Daytona Beach.
“I certainly wouldn’t be for it during the turtle season,” she said. “I think they should be on a leash, the hours definitely limit. Maybe need a license.”
Girtman and Post both said the proposed restrictions sounded like logistical nightmares.
“If you only think half the year, it’s a training and information nightmare,” said Girtman of the idea of only allowing dogs outside of turtle season.
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Post emphasized the difficulty of licensing and the cost of maintenance and monitoring.
Brower said he was grappling with the matter.
“I like choices for our tourists, visitors and residents,” he said. “Sometimes you have to try things. I tend to – in fact, I’m on a short trial period. “
Public health officials were not given the floor Tuesday, but newly appointed Beach Safety Director Andrew Ethridge had to answer a few questions.
Ethridge said there was a trauma call about a dog bite in Ponce Inlet just this morning and that a lifeguard was bitten over the weekend.
“These are the incidents that are going to happen,” said Ethridge.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to add pet-friendly beaches because of the potential impact on birds.
Dog owners asked for “paw prints in the sand”
Nanette McKeel Petrella, President of Daytona Dog Beach Inc., had asked for a “yes” to anything but maintaining the ban.
“Our members prefer the entire beach … Our next preference would be to enjoy several designated areas,” said McKeel Petrella.
She asked them not to be limited to beaches without a car and said the disabled and the elderly could benefit from driving in the sand with their furry friends.
“We know they all leave paw prints in our hearts. We ask you to work with us to get paw prints in the sand, ”said McKeel Petrella.
Shirley Keesling said consolidating all dogs into one small area would be a recipe for failure. She said the existing dog beaches at Ponce Inlet and New Smyrna Beach have sand spores and are insufficient to cater for all of Volusia County’s residents and visitors.
“I would like to see dogs allowed in all non-traffic areas of the beach with leash laws,” she said. “I’d be willing to pay for a Doggie Beach Pass.”
James Deam said Lighthouse Point Park was too small and the walk to Smyrna Dunes Park was too strenuous for his older dog. He said he was new to Port Orange, Oregon, which is much more dog-friendly.
“For tourism, dogs should be allowed on all beaches,” said Deam.
But DeLand’s Kathy Pugh said dog poop was a problem she didn’t want to deal with on the beach.
“I have a dog. I love dogs. Dogs don’t belong on the beach,” she said. “For health reasons, I don’t want them there.”
Marianne Freeman said when it came to beach trash, pet owners weren’t to blame.
“The dogs aren’t the problem. The people are,” she said.
What options were on the table?
Back in April, the council asked staff to look into options for a dog-friendly beach that would be more accessible to residents who do not live in the southern part of the county. Today, dogs are only allowed on the bay beaches on both sides of Ponce Inlet, Lighthouse Point Park and Smyrna Dunes Park.
Deputy District Leader Suzanne Konchan presented four alternatives to council members on Tuesday:
- Leave the existing ban in place.
- Reverse and allow dogs everywhere.
- Allow dogs in Ormond-by-the-Sea on the half a mile between Bicentennial Park and Al Weeks Sr. North Shore Park.
- Allow dogs in the core area of Daytona Beach, between the Boardwalk and International Speedway Boulevard.
Konchan also mentioned a fifth option suggested by members of Daytona Dog Beach Inc. to allow dogs on the half-mile between Zelda and the University Boulevards in Daytona Beach.
She said they would not recommend this alternative because there is no off-beach parking that doesn’t require a stroll down the A1A.
Konchan said if the council were to move on, staff would recommend a no-drive zone with off-beach parking, a trial period in the fall or winter, and conducting neighborhood and business surveys.
The fine for those who bring dogs to the beach is $ 50, Beach Safety Director Andrew Etheridge said.
Ormond-by-the-Sea’s proposal has met with criticism
Much of the criticism on Tuesday concerned the .5 mile proposal in Ormond-by-the-Sea. It is a non-navigable section of the beach with around 175 parking spaces outside the beach in the area.
Allison Thero spoke out against the Ormond-by-the-Sea option and said there was already insufficient parking. She called letting dogs there a “recipe for disaster”.
“The dogs have places to go,” she said.
William Müller agreed.
“All of a sudden, people from all over central Florida will be coming to take their dogs to the beach. Beach goers will no longer have parking,” he said. “Please find another place.”
Margaret Riecks said it could destroy the natural environment. It’s a dense nesting area for sea turtles where birds are known to forage for food and to rest, district officials report.
Jim Riecks noted that the parking lot is on the northern edge of the Ormond-by-the-Sea project, west of the A1A, and that pedestrians were killed crossing the street there.
“We all know what comes with dogs is a bit of a mess, even well behaved dogs,” he said. “I’m not against dogs on the beach, but the Bicentennial Park in particular has some problems.”
Barbara Girtman said the Ormond-by-the-Sea was the only proposal she considered, but after hearing the concerns of the public, she could no longer stand behind them.