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Committee to sniff out dog beach issues

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 26, 2011
  • Longboat Key
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Gail Jordan remembers the time — she thinks it was last fall — when she saw her two dogs sitting at her window wagging their tails as they watched a Southeastern Guide Dog training on the beach near her Longboat Key home. Because her two small dogs are pets, not service animals, they were prohibited by town ordinances from going onto the beach.

“I had a hard time telling my Chihuahua and telling my teacup poodle that Southeastern wasn’t going to take them into the program,” Jordan said, drawing laughter from the audience at the Longboat Key Town Commission’s Oct. 20 workshop.

Jordan’s dogs, along with other pets, are still not allowed on the beach, but they could be a step closer to gaining limited access.

Commissioners reached consensus to establish a committee to explore the idea of giving dogs limited access to a portion of the island’s beaches and report back to the commission.

Commissioners Lynn Larson and Pat Zunz, along with resident Laurin Goldner, who, with her husband, Nelson, suggested the idea of giving dogs limited beach access over the summer, will assemble the committee, which will include both those for and against the idea. The commission reached the agreement after supporters and opponents packed the workshop to give their input.

Dr. Sanford Mackman, a physician and self-described dog-lover, said that he was concerned that dog droppings could spread disease, noting that his wife picked up hookworm from a beach in Hawaii.

Brie Ochoa, assistant regional biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, urged commissioners to consider the impact on shorebirds of allowing dogs on the beach, citing research that suggests that showed that snowy plovers react to dogs from twice the distance that they react to humans, because they view dogs as potential predators.

And Sarah Hirsch, a biologist with Mote Marine Laboratory, told the commission to consider the impacts on sea-turtle nests, which have faced predation by dogs in past years.

But resident Lillian Sands said that she is frustrated by the amount of attention the town pays to turtles.

“We can’t go out there and touch the turtles and say, ‘Hi, Turtle, take care of me,’” Sands said. “You can talk to your dog and your dog is part of your family.”

Chuck Nechtem, who does not own dogs, urged the commission to give the idea a try.

“Do you realize that people who stutter never stutter when they talk to their pet?” he asked. “Because no one judges them. They can be whoever they are. And that’s what people want in this town.”

Pet people?
Is the dais filled with dog people? Or is your commissioner more of a cat person? Commissioners put their pet preferences on the record while they discussed a potential dog beach at last week’s workshop.

Mayor Jim Brown
“I have dogs. They had their first trip on the beach last weekend when we went to a family wedding in Ponte Vedra.”

Vice Mayor David Brenner
“I don’t have a dog — never have had one. I don’t have a cat, never have had a cat. Maggie and I have each other.”

Commissioner Jack Duncan
“I really don’t want to weigh-in on this. I have a cat. I don’t like cats. But I do like dogs.”

Commissioner Lynn Larson
“I have a five-pound, now, Yorkshire terrier, Muffin … ”
“I certainly wouldn’t take Muffin to a beach … I think she’s too small.”

Commissioner Hal Lenobel
Lenobel was the only commissioner who didn’t disclose at the meeting whether he had a four-legged family member. But he told the Longboat Observer that he loves pets but doesn’t have them because they’re prohibited at his condominium. But if they were allowed, “I’d get one tomorrow,” he said with a smile.

Commissioner Phill Younger
“I don’t have a dog. But I have had a dog. And I love dogs. I’ve even grown to love cats. That was quite a transition. I don’t currently have cats, either.”

Commissioner Pat Zunz
“I have no animals.”


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