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Their Battle Already Won, Flagler Beach Dog Owners Still Mobilizing to Ward Off Ban

| March 22, 2011

dogs on the beach in flagler beach

Bite me. (© Anji Tillemans)

Vicky Mulvaney lives within hearing distance of the surf in Flagler Beach, just below North 17th Street. She’s been there 20 years. She likes to walk on the beach. At least she used to. She hasn’t been walking the beach, at least not pleasurably, and no longer as often as she used to. The reason: loose dogs are making it difficult for her to stroll without getting jumped. When dogs aren’t the bother, their owners are the rude ones if she asks them to follow the law and curb the animals.

“I’ve lost my freedom to walk the beach un-accosted by dogs,” Mulvaney says. “Every few months I say oh well maybe it’s going to be different this time, and I go over, and it’s the same issue.”

No dogs are allowed on the beach in the 20 blocks between North 10th Street and South 10th Street. Mulvaney could make her way down there, though it’s not a short distance from her home, and she asks: “Why can’t I go to my own beach in front of my house? Why do I have to make the sacrifice, because we don’t have the resources to enforce it?

Outside of the 20-block no-dog zone, dogs have to be leashed, and the leash may not be longer than 8 feet. Some people flout the rule. According to Acting City Manager Bruce Campbell, there’s been 54 citations in the last year half of them Flagler Beach residents, the other half to out-of-towners, which would include Palm Coast and Flagler Beach residents. The fine is $38. Most of the citations are for dogs running around without a leash in the lash zone, rather than dogs being walks in the no-dog zone.

On Thursday, Mulvaney will appear before the Flagler Beach City Commission to ask that dogs be prohibited anywhere on the city’s beach, just as they are in the 20-block core area of the beach. If the city doesn’t think the dogs are a safety hazard, she will argue, then the city should open up the 20-block area to dogs.

Mulvaney’s plan unleashed an onslaught of emails to commissioners, and coordinated activities in what looks like an organized campaign, including fliers around town, to hedge off any possibility of such a change in the ordinance. City commissioners Jane Mealy and Marshall Shupe have each received upwards of 100 emails, one of them from a dog called Buddy Shunk, almost all opposed to a change in the ordinance. Commission Chairman John Feind received many, too, though he says he doesn’t keep track of the number. None of the three commissioners is inclined to change the ordinance, hearing people’s request to, in Shupe’s words, “leave well enough alone.”

“We’ve got to listen to what the people have to say and make a decision based on that,” Feind said. “Having said that, I’d be surprised if we changed the ordinance.”

Mealy hadn’t yet looked at Tuesday’s batch of emails on the matter. She knew there were plenty. She’d received  60 until, then. “Of the 60 that I had, all but one in favor of keeping this the way they are now,” she said.

Buddy

Among them this bit from a poodle that knows his way around a keyboard, though he’s a bit loose with the ellipses: “I’ve been enjoying the beach almost daily since I moved here and now I might not be able to go…but why?  I’m a good dog—I stay on my leash and keep to myself, I don’t bother anyone . . .sometimes beach goers want to pet me and play. . .I am always very respectful of everyone. . . why pick on us dogs who love Flagler Beach so much. . .sure, ticket or remove the problem dogs and dog owners, but don’t ruin it for the rest of us.” Buddy Shunk has his own email address, too:  shunkshack1@aol.com.

Amy Morse, a human being from Annette Street in Flagler Beach, who owns a labrador retriever, asks the commissioners not to follow Daytona Beach’s and Ormond Beach’s ban and note that her retriever is a hit with people, who come over to pet him. “I have lived in Flagler County for 36 years and in Flagler Beach for 16 of those years,” Morse wrote. “Our beautiful town is known far and wide as a sort of ‘time warp’ town – a town where old fashioned values still exist – where neighbors watch out for one another without needing a ‘neighborhood watch’ sign – where freedom still exists (homeowners can paint their homes the color(s) they choose) – and where responsible dog owners can still enjoy strolling along the surf with their equally well behaved dog.”

Others point to the town’s dog-friendliness as one reason why people bring their dogs there from out of town, staying at local motels, shopping in local stores.

“We pay higher taxes, gas prices, and sacrifice our drive time, just to be able to come home to this,” writes Michelle Nord, a seven-year resident whose dog Max “has several doggy friends that he plays with at the beach.” She adds: “Please don’t change our lifestyle! Please don’t make us like everybody else.”

And Susan Burke March took a track right out of the Michelle Obama playbook: “As my husband Ken said, dogs are the perfect solution to our obesity epidemic…witness this recent article in the NY Times. Forget the treadmill: get a dog.”

There is the matter of dog shit. But Tom Gillin, the city’s parks and recreations director, says there’s been “very little. Once in a while we’ll come across it. Then again if we get a high tide, it’s going to wash away.” During the summer, the city’s lifeguards patrol up and down from city limit to city limit to enforce the leash ordinance. But during the colder months there’s less of a code-enforcement presence on the beach proper, Gillin said.

Mealy is proposing that a leash-free zone be designated somewhere on the beach as one way to possibly reduce violations of the leash provision: if people know they can let their dog run free in a particular area, they’ll be less likely to violate the ordinance outside of it, just as most violations today are not found in the dog-free zone, which is easy to police.

Many dog owners use the language of gun owners to justify what they see as their rights: they follow the rules, they ensure others’ safety, they clean up, and they don’t want to see the miscreant behavior of a few others demolish what rights they have.

“People are so romantic about their animals, ‘I want Rover to be with me on the beach,’” Mulvaney says. But she wants to have what she considers her own rights back, too, though she doesn’t have illusions about what’s ahead. “I don’t expect to get much out of it but I’m going to do it anyway, because after this I might pull a Conklin and start suing the city for safety issues.”

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24 Responses for “Their Battle Already Won, Flagler Beach Dog Owners Still Mobilizing to Ward Off Ban”

  1. notasenior says:

    Time to increase the fines for not having dogs leashed! the beach is for taxpayers first and dogs second!

  2. FLgirl says:

    Well Notasenior,

    Us dogowners are taxpaying citizens & we shall be there Thursday afternoon to ensure our leashed dogs will be on the beach with us as long as we want them to be. If you don’t like the freedoms of this town, move!

  3. K says:

    I agree with not a senior. Rather than ban dogs, make the citation $150 and provide a phone number at each beach access for people to report loose dogs. Everyone has cell phones these days, they can call if they see a loose dog.

    I love meeting dogs at Flagler Beach and we are unique in that they are allowed here. I know of many people that drive from as far as Orlando to visit Flagler with their dogs.

  4. NortonSmitty says:

    More dogs, less people! I love all dogs. Well, except for that Republican dog on the commercial that has nightmares about another dog getting a piece of his bone. you knoe the one. Trouble, trouble trouble. That one I don’t care for.

  5. BILLY SMITH says:

    DOGS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM ITS THE OWNERS!! THEY ALLOW THEIR DOGS TO TERRORIZE INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE PEACEFULLY WALKING AND THEN THEY APOLOGIZE AFTER YOU ARE SCRATCHED UP FROM THEIR UNLEASHED DOG. IT IS TIME TO MAKE RESPONSIBLE OWNERS OUT OF IDIOTS WHO SAY HE(THE DOG) DOES NOT MEAN ANY HARM. B.S. JUST WAIT TIL YOU HAVE A PIT BULL RUNNING FULL CHARGE AT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY BELIEVE IT IS NO LONGER ROMANTIC !! WE LIVE JUST SOUTH OF MARINE LAND AND THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT EVEN FROM FLAGLER COUNTY. THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO Walk ON TOP OF THE DUNES DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT NOT TO MENTION THEY “NEVER” CLEAN UP AFTER THEIR DOG.THESE ARE SIMPLY IRRESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERS “NOT ROMANTICS” WHO DO NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT. GET REAL AND RAISE THE FINES TO $500.00 AND PUT UP SIGNS..

  6. Billy Smith – I happen to have two pitbulls (adopted from the Humane Society, btw), and I assure you they have a lot less anger between the two of them than you do. They’d never type in all caps for one.
    It’s because of ignorant morons like you that hundreds of these dogs get put down.

    Why don’t you just take your little leisurely walks in the 20 block radius where no dogs are allowed? I find it fascinating that people who hate dogs choose to walk the very small dog-friendly area of this rather large beach.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    I own two lovely dogs and I always take them to the beach on the leash. But I see some dog owners letting theirs run free. That should not be taking place…Not only let them run free let them jump on other beach goers and other dogs… Abuses always make the obedient law abiding dog owners to pay the price as well. Lets impose hefty fines in owners that take their dogs of the leash in the beaches so can cover the expense to call the sheriff on that dog owner on site and make graphic proof like photos etc acceptable for the sheriff and in court for prosecution. That is the solution. After a while all dog owners will observe the law. Sometimes tough meassures are needed to be enforced to promote civility.
    Lets do not punish the law abiding owners and their loved pets.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Make the citation $500 so then, when we call the sheriff they come as their service call will be totally covered by the fine. Also the fine should be utilized to place warning signs along the beach that will have also the 911 number on it and advising that graphic proof will be accepted in court. I am asking for this fine to protect myself and my dogs rights to enjoy the beach too.
    Regarding pitt bulls; do not blame the animals but the bad owners that teach them to attack..

  9. Frances says:

    One solution to the problem might be to have a designated time – 6:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. as a time that dogs could be off leash on the beach. Other times the dogs would need to be on leash. Lets remember that we dog owners pay taxes also and that there is already a large designated area where no dogs are allowed. Why can’t we have two hours of the day to walk our dogs unleashed? Like I said, we pay taxes too.

  10. flagler1 says:

    Billy Smith, I’m with you 100% and I’d bet a lot of homeowners along A1A are too!

  11. Smack says:

    It doesn’t bother me but I can’t believe they allowed “shit” in this article, I do feel that this lady who wants to ban the dogs is a piece of it though.

    I go to the beach all the time and I cannot remember a time where a dog jumped on a person.

  12. K says:

    I’ve never encountered an unfriendly dog at the beach, but when I see one unleashed I worry about my dogs if they are with me (always leashed) and when my kids were younger I worried about them getting jumped on or attacked.

    Bottom line is when we are on a public beach we should not worry about a loose dog. They need to be leashed.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    I could go along with France’s suggestion about limited unleash hours mentioned by her. I think we could live with that. The beach is not that crowded at those hours.

  14. Beacher says:

    I’ver had more problems with kids, teenagers and drunks at Flagler Beach than with dogs. Maybe they should all be kept on leashes or be allowed only in certain areas or at certain times.

  15. Jason says:

    It, not always the dogs cauising disturbenses. Often time it is the disagreeable dog owner like Smack above whose level of mentality and demeanor is totally offensive to beach goers.

  16. Sammie says:

    Nothing takes the enjoyment and luster away from a day at the beach than seeing a dog crap on the sand or in the water, leashed or not and even if the owner picks it up. It’s enough to make people not bring their kids back to. Flagler Beach.

  17. Capt Dan says:

    Look up dog friendly on the web and Flagler Beach shows up.Their would go that free ad money,I walk across A1A and have had more trouble with cars trying to run me over at the crosswalk by the pier (cars are suppose to stop for people in cross walk) . That being said lets face bad apples hurt everyone.So lets hurt their wallet,change the fine to a much higher number.Don’t think you would see to many dogs off their leash then.

  18. 91LX says:

    I am all for keeping the dogs on the beach. I do feel that the owners of the dogs do need to keep their do on a leash tho. Now that the weather is nice, I have been going to the beach alot. Over the past 3 weekends of me walking down to the dog part of the beach I have seen only one dog off the leash. So how big of an issuse is this really?

    Sammie: You do know that you can walk or drive south about 10 to 15 city blocks and not have to see any of that, right?

    Capt Dan: I know how you feel about almost getting run down by cars in the cross walk. I almost got cliped last Sunday. Maybe there needs to be a big sign with flashing lights letting the cars know to stop for people crossing the road. Oh wait… I think there is, never mind……

  19. Flagler Beach Walker says:

    Glad this is no longer an issue. I like to walk the beach and I don’t mind dogs (as long as they’re well-behaved) on the beach… I find it silly that I can walk a dog on the street and not on the beach (between 10th & 10th streets). I say: Repeal the ordinance altogether and get rid of all the ridiculous signs which are rarely enforced. Police yourselves people. Personal responsibility can save this beautiful place from radical leftists.

  20. Sammie says:

    Tell me 91LX, why must I walk 10 – 15 blocks to enjoy a crap free beach so that people who dont live here can bring their dogs to polute my beach.
    And don’t compare dogs with cars on A1A, they are two different problems

  21. 91 LX says:

    Sammie. Why must I have to walk 10 – 15 blocks north to bring my dog to the beach?
    Its called a compromise. You don’t like it one way, I don’t like it the other, so being a grown adult I can meet people in the middle.
    I don’t like people smokeing on the beach and throwing their cig butts in the sand. I don’t like fat 90 year old men sun bathing in a sepdo. But every weekend I enjoy going to the beach so I deal with it. Something tells me that your are older than I am. So tell me. How is it that I figured that out and you still have not. Its a free country. You don’t like what 51% of the people like, then move on or deal with it. Don’t try to ruin it for everyone else.
    And let me get the right Sammie. This is YOUR beach?? Wow you must be the richist man in town to own your own beach. You must be the nicest man ever to let all these people week in and week out walk and play on your beach.
    I have lived here in Flagler Beach for almost a year now. And I go to the beach alot. And not one single time have I ever seen a pile of dog crap on the beach. I have seen tons of bird crap, dead jelly fish,dead starfish dead fish and dead bird wash up ashore, but never a pile of dog crap.

  22. DILLIGAF says:

    I WOULD RATHER HAVE DOGS ON THE BEACH THAN THE PALMCOAST PIGS!!!!!!!!

  23. Sammie says:

    91LX What is a sepdo ?? is it anything like dog dodo?

  24. Donna Denny says:

    We moved to Flagler Beach because we can walk with our leashed dogs on the beach. If we are unable to do this we could just as easily live somewhere else in Florida. But, we do not want to live elsewhere, we like it here. Hopefully we’ll get to stay.

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