BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – County commissioners presented a united front Tuesday night in rejecting a citizen proposal to allow dogs along an 11-mile stretch of South Brevard beaches within the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
"There is no part of this that I like," County Commission Chair Kristine Isnardi said. "There's no way I'm going to support this. It's a health and safety issue for me."
Isnardi said some pet owners are more responsible than others in cleaning up dog waste, and "there's enough gross things on our beaches" without adding more dog waste to the mix.
Commissioners and members of the public who spoke against the proposal raised a variety of concerns. Among them: dog owners not cleaning up after their dogs, leaving feces and urine in the sand and in the ocean water; unleashed dogs making unprovoked attacks against beachgoers; and dogs disturbing sea turtle nesting areas and turtle eggs.
The Archie Carr Refuge was established in 1991 for protection of and habitat conservation for threatened and endangered sea turtles and other species. It is the most significant area for loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the world and the most significant area for green sea turtle nesting in North America.
After hearing comments from 11 members of the public — most opposed to the proposal for dogs on the south beaches — commissioners turned down the request without a formal vote.
South Beaches resident Donna Post submitted the citizen request for consideration. She wanted county commissioners to amend a section of the county's ordinance to allow dogs on the beach in a roughly 11-mile stretch south of Melbourne Beach — from Sandy Shoes Resort at State Road A1A and Sandy Shoes Drive, south to Sebastian Inlet at the Indian River County line.
Under Post's proposal, dogs would be allowed on the beaches before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. daily.
"Dogs must be under the control of their owner at all times, and owner is responsible for picking up after their dog," the proposal said. "All dogs must be licensed and up to date on all vaccines."
In comments at Tuesday's meeting, Post's husband, John Post, told commissioners that there was room for compromise, such as reducing the stretch of beach involved, possibly in an area outside the Archie Carr Refuge; requiring dog owners to have a special permit to allow their dogs on the beach; or allowing dogs on the beach only during the time period outside of turtle nesting season.
"It is an emotional decision for the residents" of the Melbourne Beach area, John Post said. "But I think it's one that we can have a compromise about."