Dogs on the beach? For many, it’s a bone of contention

Brevard County’s 72-mile shoreline only has one 700-foot dog-friendly stretch of beach, a county-operated park located at Canova Beach Park near Indian Harbour Beach.

Everywhere else, if you see a dog loose or being walked on the beach, even on a leash, it’s illegal. Like it or not, it’s a matter of enforcement.

Supporters of dogs on the beaches say thousands of responsible pet owners should not be punished for those with misdeeds. Opponents fear dog attacks, liability issues and fecal contamination.

Satellite Beach Police recently announced a crackdown after receiving multiple complaints of dogs on the beach. Among those calling for more enforcement is city resident Jeff Chestine, who appeared before the City Council in April to complain about the cleanliness aspect and constant contact with dogs off leash at the beach.

Like Chestine, police cite not just the illegal location, but also a blatant lack of responsibility in not picking up the dog’s waste and allowing off-leash pooches to run up on children and otherwise exhibit aggressive behavior.

It is a violation of county code for dogs to be on the beach. Satellite Beach patrol officers can issue tickets for violations.

The only exception is for service dogs. But identifying your dog as a service dog if it isn’t one is an abuse of a privilege afforded to trained and certified service dogs, and may result in additional tickets, serious fines and a court appearance.

The Brevard County Commission initially opened the 9.1-acre beach park with three dune crossovers at Canova Beach in February 2012 as a one-year trial program, and it has been extremely successful, said county spokesman Don Walker.

All dogs must be on a leash and must wear tags showing their current license and vaccinations. There is no cost to use the dog beach park, but owners must pick up after their pets.

“We don’t have a traffic counter out there so we really don’t know how much it’s used, but we have many requests for other beach dog parks to be opened but so far it’s the only one. If people follow the rules, everyone is happy. In this case, self-policing has proved workable,’’ Walker said.

Various failed attempts at establishing dog beaches include several in the 1990s; in 2015 there was a proposal for 1.2 miles from the southern boundary of Cocoa Beach to the northern boundary of Patrick Air Force Base where leashed dogs would have been permitted from sunrise until 10 a.m., and from 5 p.m. until sunset.

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