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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Dogs on beach a concern

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:29 PM

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County Commissioner Wayne Dukes said a common complaint he hears about Bark Island is from families hesitant to let their children play in the grass or sand after the dogs have departed.

Dukes said there is a concern because some dogs may have done their business and irresponsible pet owners didn't clean it up.

The Florida Department of Health concurs there could be a problem.

"(Children) should not be allowed to play in this area because of the higher potential exposure to parasites/disease," according to a letter from W. David Polk, with the Florida Department of Health's Division of Disease Control and Health Protection.

County Administrator Leonard Sossamon read the letter into the record at Tuesday's county commission meeting.

Dukes said he asked Sossamon to do so.

"It was pretty serious stuff and for us to keep it and not share it, that really wouldn't be fair to anyone," Dukes said. "I wanted everyone to see why we had concerns."

The state health department does not have the authority to prevent animals on beaches and does not have an official policy written on allowing dogs.

However, the department's healthy beaches program office does have a concern.

"There is a potential exposure to parasites and other diseases because of the presence of fecal matter from animals on beaches and anywhere humans and animals interact," Polk wrote.

The matter came up this week after some beachgoers and the owner of a Pine Island concession stand complained about the increase in dogs during Bark Island days, held from 7:30-9:30 a.m. every other Saturday through March at Pine Island.

Commissioners Tuesday asked county staffers to better supervise the event, make sure they enforce the owner clean-up rules and check to be sure dogs are up to date on vaccinations.

Polk also recommends that the beach be supervised for licenses, vaccinations, poop scooping and general sanitary conditions.

Polk said a dog beach in Miami posts more poor water quality advisories than other Miami-Dade beaches.

"However, if owners clean up the fecal material left by their animals, the risk of disease is reduced," Polk wrote.

Recreation Coordinator Harry Johnson said the county has had the beach water tested after Bark Island events and there have been no closures of the beach due to high bacteria counts.

As for the urination problem, Johnson said rules clearly state that owners must pick up sand clumps and properly dispose of them.

He said he would also stress that dogs stay away from the concession area and that rules will be strictly enforced.

Although Dukes said he would not bring his own dog to a public beach, he has no problems continuing to hold Bark Island as long as it is closely monitored.

"We're going to continue to do it and that's why I challenged the park people to be proactive in keeping an eye on things because the number of dogs has increased. Time will tell." (352) 544-5290

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