SUN-LOVING CANINE — This obviously happy hound savors the sun and salty air of the beach — perhaps to the chagrin of human critics. The Volusia County Council is set to debate once again whether to expand access to its beaches by dogs and their owners.

Who let the dogs out? Who let the County Council out?

For the fourth time in less than a decade, the Volusia County Council will consider whether to allow people to bring their canine companions onto the beaches with them.

As the council is set to begin a series of nighttime meetings Tuesday, Feb. 21, one of the top issues — one that is almost certain to bring out a crowd and deep passions on both sides — is whether dogs on leashes, children, other strangers and cars can play well together and not cause problems for others. Service dogs are permitted on the beach, but pets and emotional-support animals do not qualify as service animals.

Volusia County’s ban of dogs on the sunny sands by the sea is not total, as dogs — on leashes — are allowed at Lighthouse Point Park in Ponce Inlet and at Smyrna Dunes Park in New Smyrna Beach.

The discussion about whether a dog’s place is by the ocean is the third item on the agenda, meaning it will likely be brought up early in the meeting. The County Council’s starting time for its evening sessions is 4 p.m.

People who support allowing dogs on the beach say they and their four-pawed companions like to be together, and the critters are part of their family. 

Opponents of permitting dogs on the beach say the animals, though often friendly, may suddenly become aggressive and attack or bite people or other dogs. Too often, dogs make a mess and irresponsible pet owners do not obey the law and clean up after their animals. Besides, people who go to the beach say they do not want to hear dogs barking.

In preparation for the next County Council meeting and the planned discussion about dogs on the beaches, the county administrative staff has compiled a 462-page background report on the issue. Much of the material comes from discussions of the subject on prior occasions. More than half of the voluminous report consists of emails sent to the County Council supporting the writers’ stances.

“As a local resident and dog owner, I ask that you consider allowing dogs on the beach in specific locations only,” wrote Elaine Gray, of New Smyrna Beach. “I have driven all the way up to St. Johns and Flagler for the pleasure of sitting with my dogs on the beach. Although I understand the concerns about dogs digging up turtle eggs, disturbing the dunes, and creating messes on the beach, I have found dog owners in those areas to be very responsible. Keeping dogs on leash resolves 95 percent of any problems.”

A transplanted Tennessean also urged the County Council to let more dogs come onto the beaches.

“I really love the area and my community,” wrote Nicole Bishop. “There is one disappointing law that I am writing to you about and it is that Volusia does not allow dogs on the beach.”

“My goal is to eventually change this one day and hope that you can help me,” continued Bishop. “Daytona Beach needs to be more with the time. This is 2020 and we live in a society where more people are pet friendly than not pet friendly. Plus, I have found that South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia beaches are pet friendly. Jacksonville also allows dogs on their beach and Daytona needs to follow suit. If it works in these states and counties, then it can work here also.”

Opponents of letting dogs onto the beaches likewise conveyed their feelings.

“I have several concerns about allowing dogs on all of our beaches,” Christian McGowan, of DeLand, wrote, continuing:

“The most obvious is cleanliness — too many dog owners simply do not clean up after their dogs. This would make visiting our beaches less enjoyable and enforcement would be very difficult.

“Sea turtle and shorebird nesting sites — several protected/endangered species come ashore on our beaches each year to lay eggs. Allowing dogs on all stretches of the beach could have a negative impact on these species’ habitat and potentially damage nesting sites.”

A dog lover in Ormond Beach added her thoughts.

“Dogs on the beach are exposed to skin irritations from salt water and sand, the possibility of dehydration and sunburn,” wrote Paula Wehr. “Yes, the sun can harm dogs’ noses and eyes, just as it does with humans. Cars and dogs don’t mix well on our streets nor on our beaches. As we all know, the rules are broken by beach goers every day, so the possibility of unleashed dogs will be a given. It’s unfair to other people using the beach to have to deal with a dog running through their blankets or jumping on their children.”

In the summary of the report, given at the outset, the county administration offers no recommendation except for discussion by the council.


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