ST. PETE BEACH – St. Pete Beach City commissioners voted unanimously Jan. 26 to allow dog owners to walk their pets on a leash at a popular dog beach in Pass-A-Grille.
The ordinance, which must still pass a second reading Feb. 9, establishes a legal dog beach on a small strip of sand south of the Merry Pier, between First and Third avenues. City staff, depending on the time of the year, will set the hours of operation. But city commissioners seemed to be interested in a schedule revolving around dawn to dusk, give or take two hours.
It will remain illegal to have dogs on any other public beach or beach access in St. Pete Beach.
The proposed dog beach has been used for years as a popular spot for canine recreation. The city’s ordinance previously banned dogs from Gulf beaches and was recently amended to include all sand beaches in the city, which included the site east of Pass-A-Grille Way.
That move led to a ground swell from dog owners, asking for a dog beach.
“A lot of people have contacted commissioners and there’s been a lot of discussion that we need an area that is dog friendly,” said City Manager Wayne Saunders. “This is an ordinance that would amend (the current ordinance) and allow that area as a dog friendly area with quite a few restrictions.”
The restrictions are:
• Dog owners are legally responsible for their dogs and injuries caused by them
• Dogs must be properly licensed, have required immunizations, and wear appropriate dog tags at all times.
• Dogs must remain out of any dune vegetation
• Owners must clean up after their dogs
• Owners shall maintain clear sidewalks at all times
• Dogs showing aggression toward people or other dogs shall be immediately removed from the premises
• Dogs that bark persistently or are otherwise a nuisance shall be removed from the premises
• Dogs using the dog beach area must be a minimum of four months old
• Dogs must never be left unattended
• Dogs “in heat” will not be allowed in the area
• Rawhide, food or any other consumable product are not allowed
• Dogs are the only type of animal permitted in the area
• Violators will be subject to removal from the area and suspended of privileges at the dog beach.
The city was originally asked to make the area into a dog park, which would have allowed off-leash activity within a fenced-in boundary. But since the city already has two other dog parks, a compromise was struck with dog owners to keep the beach open to canines on a leash.
“What we have is an ordinance for a dog-friendly beach,” said Mayor Maria Lowe. “This is modeled after what Clearwater does on their beach. It is intended to provide the benefit for those who want to go into a sandy area with their dog and into the water with their dog, but also ensures that the dog is under control. The dog leash not only protects the dog but it protects people as well.”
“In writing the ordinance, we took several restrictions that were applicable to dog parks,” explained Community Development Director Jennifer Bryla.
More than 40 dog owners in attendance voiced support for the ordinance but there were others who were opposed.
“I really do not think that sand beaches are the place for dogs,” said Silver Sands condominium resident Bill Pyle, who said he owns two dogs. “No matter how well intentioned and all of the precautions, I don’t think any of us, our children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren who may be on the beach … nobody wants their children to have an unfortunate discovery. So I would like to speak against converting our beautiful beaches into dog beaches any place in St. Pete Beach.”
David Kramer, who lives across the street from the proposed dog beach, pointed to parking issues that already exist in the area.
“Another thing, a third of the population have dogs,” said Kramer. “There’s only eight to 10 of us residents next to that poor little beach. We’re outnumbered 100 to 1.”
In addition to traffic issues, Kramer pointed to health concerns from dog feces.
If the measure passes on second reading, signs will be erected listing the restrictions and hours.
In other action, commissioners:
• Approved spending $47,888 for two new software applications for the Recreation Department.
• Approved $52,328 for permitting software for the Community Development Department.
• Approved $21,200 to enter into an agreement with USA Voltage LLC to provide underground utility service connections for the Pass-A-Grille Way North Reconstruction project.
• Took no action on a $218,750 boating infrastructure grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. By accepting the grant, the city would have had to match $376,000 to construct a 10-slip floating dock and boardwalk. One of the stipulations of accepting the grant was the city could not charge rent to boaters for using the slips. City leaders expect to keep the concept alive and use alternative funding sources.
• Agreed to increase City Attorney Andrew Dickman’s hourly rate from $180 to $200 per hour with a $5,000 bonus. Dickman has been the city attorney since August 2014.
• Authorized the purchase of a 2016 Nissan Frontier pickup truck for $17,486.95. The new truck will replace a 2004 Ford Ranger pickup truck assigned to parking enforcement.
• Approved a request by Brass Monkey owner Barry Streib to close Gulf Way from Eighth to Seventh avenues Oct. 15, noon to midnight, and allow alcohol for a wedding reception for Streib’s daughter.