Volusia County will be exploring expanded dog beach access and potentially adding more dog-friendly beaches in the Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach areas.
The council unanimously voted to look into the options without giving specific instructions on when to return or where to look. Apart from the fact that new dog beach locations, if approved, would be accessible to residents of the northern parts of the county.
The county’s only two dog-friendly beaches are now in the southern portion of the county, at Smyrna Dunes Park on New Smyrna Beach and Lighthouse Point Park on Ponce Inlet.
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Councilors Danny Robins, Billie Wheeler and Fred Lowry spoke out against opening the entire beach, citing health and environmental concerns.
“I have grandchildren. Unfortunately, my grandchildren eat sand,” said Wheeler.
However, Lowry made a motion to consider options for residents in the northern part of the county.
Patricia Boswell, Florida Department of Health administrator in Volusia County, warned against allowing dogs on the beaches.
She said the main concerns are animal bites and sand, which has been contaminated by feces, leading to parasitic infections.
Jean Olbert, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said FWC believes that dogs should be banned on beaches with sensitive wildlife or habitats, especially during critical periods.
“It’s important to note that the beaches in Volusia County provide breeding, resting and feeding bases for state-endangered waders, seabirds and gopher turtles, as well as state-protected beach mice and sea turtles,” she wrote in an email to the county employee.
Chris Farrell, a political association for Audubon Florida, put the same thing.
“Beach-dependent species have declined dramatically over the decades due to coastal development, beach driving, and intense recreational use. Opening more beaches to dogs only increases the struggles these species face at a time when significant state and federal spending is going on incurred to reverse their population decline, “he wrote via email.
Andrew Ethridge, interim director of beach safety, said the agency has no position on the issue, but it is one of their main enforcement concerns.
“Dogs take up a lot of time on the beach,” he said. “It’s quite a problem for our officers.”
Coastal Department director Jessica Winterwerp said they could hand out dog waste bags at toll booths if ordered to do so.
Eight people were in favor of expanding access to dogs in other parts of the county, and three people were against.