APRIL FOOLS —
In their Wednesday meeting, Sarasota County commissioners agreed to put into effect a pilot program that would allow dogs on Siesta Key Beach. The decision came in response to vocal demand by a local canine rights activist group, Sarasota County Residents Upset for Furry Friends, or SCRUFF. The group presented the pilot program to commissioners after seeing the popularity of the dog-friendly Brohard Beach and Paw Park in Venice, and commissioners say the idea was well received.
“I think it’s time to reconsider the issue,” said one commissioner during the meeting. “SCRUFF brings up some valid points, and it seems to be working in Venice. I think a pilot program will give us a chance to determine whether allowing dogs on our beaches is something we should consider implementing permanently.”
The three-week pilot program will allow beachgoers to bring their dogs to Siesta Key Beach between Accesses No. 2 and 5, and will run from Sunday, April 1 to Sunday, April 29. Residents who wish to participate are asked to bring their dog to the Siesta Key concession stand for early registration at 6 a.m. Saturday, April 1.
In order to be allowed on the beach, county officials will measure each dog’s bark with a decibel reader to ensure that it is in compliance with Sarasota County sound ordinances. Dogs with higher decibel level barks generally include yorkies, pomeranians and chihuahuas. Dog owners will need to enter their names and contact information, along with a photo of their respective pets, into an online database.
After passing a routine obedience test, each dog will be issued a special collar and vest that must be worn at all times while on the beach.
“We need to have a way to keep track of whose dog is whose so that we can address any incidents should they arise,” said a county official. “We have to draw a line in the sand somewhere.”
Certain amenities will be made available on the beach throughout the pilot program, including dog-waste receptacles and bag dispensers, a dog bathing station, a shade pavilion and a small obstacle course near Siesta Key Beach Access No. 3.
Sarasota county commissioners will hold a workshop at the beginning of May to discuss the success of the program and decide whether the beach should allow dogs on a permanent basis.
The meeting is open to the public, and residents are invited to weigh in on the issue.