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Dog days a smelly situation

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:24 PM

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Willy Kochounian says he doesn't mind a few dogs during the Bark Island event on Pine Island, where he has operated his beachfront café for the last 21 years.

But when it gets to be 70-80 of them every other Saturday and the canines are doing their business without supervision, something needs to be done, he said.

And he says he's not the only one who has noticed.

"I love animals, I love dogs, but from the complaints I'm getting, people don't want the stink anymore," Kochounian said.

And he says it is affecting business during dog days.

Fewer young families are coming to Pine Island, he said, because they don't want kids playing in the dirty sand. Others simply are tired of having to compete for swimming space with Dobermans and other four-legged creatures.

"This place is just too small to have 70-80 dogs running around peeing and pooping everywhere," Kochounian said.

Recently, he said he had to bleach the planters on his Willy's Tropical Breeze deck to remove the stench.

Kochounian plans to attend Tuesday's county commission meeting where board members are scheduled to discuss the Pine Island animal problem.

The county allows dogs at Pine Island twice a month from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Saturdays. Called Bark Island, the dog-friendly Saturdays began in September and run through March.

During those days, owners are supposed to clean up after their dogs, which must be vaccinated but don't have to be leashed while there, said Harry Johnson, county recreation coordinator.

Pet owners like to play Frisbee with their dogs near the water and let their animals run free, he said.

Admission to Bark Island is $7 per car or walk-up. Johnson said each event typically nets the parks and recreation department $400-$450.

For some reason, this recent Bark Island event, held last Saturday, drew complaints and Johnson suspects it stems from a few not following the posted rules.

"It's crucial they pick up after their dog so we don't have anything left on our beaches," said Johnson, who plans to attend Tuesday's meeting.

A parks staffer is present during each event and this last one had about 65 cars with perhaps multiple dogs per vehicle. So Kochounian's estimate of about 80 dogs could be accurate, he said.

County Commissioner Wayne Dukes, who placed the item on the agenda after talking with Kochounian and others, said he hopes the board can find a solution.

"I am a dog owner and have been for years and I would not take them to a public beach," Dukes said.

County commissioners will consider the problem at their business meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Hernando County Government Center, 20 North Main St. in downtown Brooksville.

Also at Tuesday's meeting:

From May 1 to Sept. 10, the county issued eight permits valued at $240 for events to be held during the moratorium period.

During calendar year 2011, 59 permits were issued and $1,770 collected.

The moratorium is scheduled to expire Oct. 31. (352) 544-5290

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