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Flagler Beach Dog Lovers: “If We Wanted More Rules We’d Go To Palm Coast”

| March 24, 2011

Carry on. ((c) S. Alex Maier)

This much was a foregone conclusion even before the Flagler Beach City Commission began hearing the latest complaints—closer to the singular than the plural—over dogs on the beach: commissioners were not going to extend the dog ban beyond current boundaries (no dogs are allowed on the sands between North 10th Street and South 10th Street). But the complaint could, ironically, spur the commission to actually liberalize some of its rules while tightening others, because the issue triggered a slew of ideas.

And that’s as far as commissioners agreed to go: more education, more enforcement (“self-patrol,” in Commissioner Kim Carney’s words, but also possibly letting lifeguards issue summonses), an invitation to more ideas, but no changes in the rules, though Commission Chairman John Feind cautioned: “It is a privilege, not a right, to have your dog at the beach,” and dog owners should be working toward preserving that privilege, not undermining it by flouting what rules are in effect.

Long-time Flagler Beach resident Vicky Mulvaney opened the discussion, with a jammed commission chamber behind her, by speaking about 10 minutes about the problems she’s encountered with dogs on the beach—being assaulted by dogs and insulted by their owners, issues with waste, issues with safety.  She asked for “a safe and feces-free beach,” and spoke of numerous health hazards posed by dogs on any beach.

It’s not that many of the 37 people who followed her–an apparent record on any issue at the commission–didn’t sympathize. But the majority disputed her claims that dogs are as serious a problem in Flagler Beach as she made it sound, or that more rules are the solution. The proposals ranged instead from improving enforcement of existing rules, increasing fines for those who break rules, and giving dog owners at least some room, somewhere, to let their dogs run free, so they’d be less tempted to do so in leash-only zones. Mostly, residents spoke of preserving Flagler Beach’s relative freedoms and the “free spirits” it attracts.

“If we wanted more rules we’d go to Palm Coast,” Phyllis Carmel said. “Please let’s not make another rule.”

An undertone of humor and earnestness colored many speakers’ words, though no dog spoke, and only one was in the audience (one dog sent an email to commissioners earlier this week). Some of those who spoke recognized the absurdity of a city commission meeting so well attended over this issue that people were barred from coming in because the chamber had an 88-people limit, per fire marshal rules. “I’m amazed that we’re all here for this reason, it seems kind of ridiculous,” David Massey, a Flagler Beach resident and dog owner, said. He suggested the city focus more on improving its downtown area, making it a more fun place to live, preserving its originality, and exploring the idea of a leash-free zone, as proposed by Commissioner Jane Mealy.

“I have never received so many emails on any issue since I’ve been on the commission,” Mealy said.

Two former city commissioners, one of whom helped write the original dog ordinance—Jackie Mulligan—said tweaks, not bans, are in order.  “The ordinance is good, we spent a lot of time with it, we were trying to find that balance between the dog owners, and I happened to have a great Dane at the time, so I understand their plight,” Mulligan said, not quite finishing her thought about the other side of the balance. But she summed up in terms frequently repeated this evening: “This is a violation problem, not just a dog problem.”

Former commissioner Joy McGrew, attending her first meeting since leaving the commission earlier this year, opened her moment at the dais with this: “I’m so glad I’m out here and you’re up there.” She then admitted to not having one of those $5 dog licenses Flagler Beach residents are required to have—a scandal that would not necessarily have ended her commission tenure, had it been disclosed earlier—and also admitted to letting her dogs run free, without a leash (when people aren’t around, anyway), and inviting cops to cite her if caught. Her suggestion: “We all have to help police each other. Increase the fines.” Including the licensing fee. “Five dollars for a dog city license in Flagler Beach is ridiculous,” she said. And she endorsed a leash-free zone, at least for a couple of times a day: “How about two hours after sunrise, two hours after sunset, you can take your dog to the beach.”

Only one person seemed to verge closer to Mulvaney’s complaint, though not entirely. “I’m afraid of dogs,” Sherry Eppley said, ridiculing those who claimed they’d never seen feces on the beach. More enforcement would be a good idea, but not if it means spending more money, she said. “It’s a ridiculous use of taxpayer money, so I think there could be more of a campaign that comes from the chamber of commerce who wants to develop this area and who wants to create a community where people can enjoy coming and bringing their little kids without the possibility of running into a dog that’s running loose or stepping into dog poop. So I think it is a question of who’s more important, the humans or the dogs.”

28 Responses for “Flagler Beach Dog Lovers: “If We Wanted More Rules We’d Go To Palm Coast””

  1. compcat says:

    a beach is not a dog park….

    i dont care how many “sirens” go off–dogs are dogs,beaches are for people

    i am a dog lover for sure-i love my pets but i dont feel they belong on flagler beach-i do not want to smell dog poop or have a dog kick sand in my face while im relaxing

  2. SSDD says:

    Then “RELAX” at your house… Dogs are people too

  3. Beacher says:

    They city council needs to address other issues on the beach as well, the blaring music, and lets talk about waste on the beach, every time I go to the beach i feel like I’m in an ashtray, we need something done about all the cigarette buts and trash that are left behind by people. Oh and compact, vie had more problems with kids kicking sand in my face and on my stuff than dogs, so maybe we need to bad kids from the beach or make areas that they can be confined to. Most people with dogs do a better job controlling their dog than people with kids.

  4. compcat says:

    dogs are not people—its already well documented that although yes-dogs may be a part of a household and considered family-most people that believe a dog is truly family are also mentally deffiecent–typically have hoarding issues and get along with animals better than people…

    any dog that comes running towards me off a leash on the beach-well i do feel sorry for that dog and its ower

  5. real people says:

    to SSDD:
    dogs are not people they are way better and trustworthy.

  6. real people says:

    plenty of time on their hands, these people need to be introduced to Viagra and vino.

  7. Bethany says:

    Uhm, last I checked, the beach is part of nature. As natural creatures, I don’t see why dogs can’t go on the beach. As long as their owners are keeping an eye on them, there should be no problem. What I think should be banned from the beach are the damn kids I see playing in the turtle nests, and those awful people who leave trash all over the place!

  8. Beacher says:

    compact you sound like one miserable and horrid person making threats like that. I feel sorry for you

  9. rickg says:

    Has anyone seen pollution caused by humans??? There are more beer cans sandwich wrappers etal…. all over the beach. Dogs are not the problem. Dogs help people cope with the everyday stress and anxiety that occurs in society. Let dogs do their thing. Responsible pet owners will pick up after them. Fine those who choose not to be a good pet owner, not the dogs.

  10. Patti Powell says:

    As a dog owner (she doesn’t like the beach) I will speak out. I think our town is a wonderful place to be. We have enough rules in place…………. I too would like to see a time when folks could bring their dogs to the beach to run off leash. I will admit that when we owned a golden retriever who loved the beach I would bring her early AM before anyone was on the beach and let her run for a few minutes. No one was ever harmed. She did her business in our yard before we went and it gave us Both great pleasure.

  11. David says:

    Providing for prohibition doesn’t always make for more controlled society and effective governance. Prohibition causes more law breaking. In this case, making another law, will only result in more violation of law. People will never cease to walk their dogs and we know that there will always be to complain about it.

    If Ms. Mulvaney is using impingement on her freedom argument as the reason she can’t walk on the beach any more, I’d say that’s a pretty weak argument. Dog’s on the beach, legally leashed or illegally roaming free, doesn’t seem to affect the hundreds of other people that choose to jog and walk on the beach every single day.

    So she had a bad experience with an unruly mutt, who may have been excited about his freedom on the sand and in the water, and jumped up on her…but that happens. I understand that she doesn’t want to be attacked by a dog and jumped all over by a poorly behaved pooch, that is understandable and I don’t blame her for disapproving of poorly trained animals with bad habits. it’s unacceptable. But it happens on the sidewalks too…Should we outlaw leashed dogs on sidewalks too? We get into fender benders in traffic and we bump into people at the grocery store, but were not banning cars and making it illegal to accidentally invade each other’s personal space are we? You can’t paint everyone with the same brush. There are bad dogs and bad dog owners, but they are not the norm.

    Those that break the law should be held accountable wherever or whenever possible. People speed in their cars, but we don’t necessarily have the resources to police every mile of road in Flagler Beach 24 hours a day do we? It happens and sometimes law breakers get caught. Someone at the commission meeting suggested we hire another police officer and have them assigned solely to policing the beach for unleashed dogs. That idea is ridiculous and makes a joke out of every good person that wears a badge. Are we seriously talking like this?

    If Ms. Mulvaney has been locked inside her home afraid of going near any animals, than I say she has only herself to blame for not exercising her freedom. And to take away someone else’s freedom to exercise, with their dog, is counterintuitive.

    If we outlaw dogs on the beach because of a few bad experiences, we will have given Flagler Beach a another cause for failure. In these bleak economic times, our city needs all the tourist dollars and tax dollars we can get our hands on, we need more reasons for people to want to move and live here. We need to preserve Flagler Beach’s unique lifestyle without stifling progress and making more pointless rules.

    If Ms. Mulvaney is seriously considering filing a legal action against the city of Flagler Beach everyone will know that she is using the guise of personal safety to openly defraud the City of Flagler Beach to support her own agenda. As a member of the commission and a political representative of taxpayers and voters,  They should be personally offended.

     Colleen Conklin may be suing the city, but she is doing so because she was injured while stepping off the sidewalk on city property and she claims it was the improperly marked sidewalk or part of the street which may have caused her injury.

    If Ms. Mulvaney is injured by an unruly dog, she should sue the dog and the dog owner, not the city of Flagler Beach for negligence.

    The citizen’s and this commission’s time, effort and resources could be better spent on figuring out ways to increase tourism, help businesses stay open and prosper, responsibly develop the downtown area and make Flagler Beach an even more beautiful and more fun place to live, than to argue points like this.

    I suggest Ms. Mulvaney come up with a better way to spend her time or a less ridiculous way of wasting everyone else’s.

  12. MK says:

    YAY for dogs! Thank you Commissioners for realizing that punishing the law abiding dog owners/residents because of the non law abiding tourists and snowbirds that flock down is wrong. I am happy that my Cocker can continue to enjoy the beach…on his leash and with a good supply of Walmart bags in my pocket :) ! The next nearest beach for us to take him would have been Honeymoon Beach on the Gulf side…a 2.5 hour trip from Lady Lake and a 2 mile hike through paths that are marked Beware of Snakes. Thank you so much!

    I agree..those who refuse to follow the rules need to be ticketed. They make it hard on those of us who consider this an honor to be there.

  13. Neil says:

    I think Ms Mulvaney needs to get a hobby and a life. This entire complaint has been a waste of everyone’s time. A dog jumped on you? Oh my…Have you ever noticed the damage one kid leaves on the beach in one afternoon? We were at the beach with our dog last week. He played in the water and slept in the sand in the shade. While we were there, we saw a family with 5 kids, all under the age of 10. They left plastic toys all over the place, dug trenches and holes by the water so deep that I actually saw a jogger trip and fall. They threw food and wrappers in the sand and when they left, the mother actually left behind a dirty diaper. I have never, ever seen anyone with a dog out there leave a mess like what these kids leave. Maybe Ms Mulvaney needs to trip over a kid’s trench and fall face first into a dirty diaper to realize dogs aren’t so bad after all…
    …and now she’s going to sue the City over this? Good grief…go read a book or take up knitting!

  14. Jack says:

    I let my dog poop on the beach all the time, and I pee in the water!!

  15. Wxman says:

    I must say, I don’t care for the photo you chose for this article. It looks like 2 dogs fighting and that’s not what we see on the beach at all!

  16. Piper says:

    My dog is my family and I do not have mental issues what I have is a compassion for all of gods creatures even the kind that walk on two legs ..My family fury and human enjoy the beach very much that is why I live here and will continue too ..
    P.S. My family dog is a residence of Flagler and he has the right to enjoy the beach as the other Flagler county residence do!!! To all alike have a pawtastic day at the beach ……

  17. compcat says:

    piper does your dog pay taxes?…

  18. Duffman says:

    My dog would only approach to say hello. She loves people and might lick you to death. If you hurt her she wouldn’t understand.

  19. DogsLoveBeaches! says:

    If You Don’t Like Dogs At The Beach Don’t Go To The Section That Dogs Are Allowed!! Its Not Fair You Cant Bring Dogs To All Sections Of The Beach!!! At Least Dogs Don’t Leave Trash Or Cigarette Butts All Over The Beach!! They May Go To The Bathroom But That’s Why Owners Pick It Up!!! So Grow Up!! People Bring There Kids To The Beach!!! Dogs Are Just Like Kids!!!

  20. Maggie says:

    OK so your right dogs are not people….but if it’s a dog beach and you don’t like dogs guess what…don’t go to the dog beach section….I don’t like kids so I don’t really want them at the beach with me screaming and crying and stinking like poop but you still bring them to the beach to annoy me, so I choose not to go to the section of the beach where there are crying screaming brats!!!! Leave us dog lovers alone and find something worth while in life to pick on!!!

  21. NortonSmitty says:

    The headline grabbed my. I love my dog, but the important sentiment that we should have printed up and posted over the City Council Podium and opposite Bruce Cambells desk is this:



  22. palmcoaster says:

    My Big Thanks to all the pouch lovers, like we are, posting here. Lets ask FB Council to get rid of the ordinance prohibiting dogs is assigned sections of the local restaurants that welcome us.

  23. palmcoaster says:

    Typo, sorry was supposed to be pooch not pouch.

  24. FL Sunshine says:

    With all this talk about our furry four legged friends, I was wondering if someone is given a citation for dog barking, if that someone does not pay the fine, what happens to the someone? Is it a real court process that is conducted by a hearing officer in the Community Building? Are the outcomes really sustainable in the real world? Can someone go to jail if the citation is not paid? What if the someone strongly opposes the ruling by the Hearing Officer, is there a process to respond in a real court setting? It sounds almost like a kangaroo court. What are your opinions or factual knowledge of this process in Palm Coast? Who is the Hearing Officer? Is it a real judge or a wannabe judge? Any information will be helpful and thank you,

  25. b wilkerson says:

    I just read 23 pgs of the animal control policy. nowhere did I find how many cats or dogs we can have. does anybody know the rule?

  26. snapperhead says:

    I’ve fished and hung out at the beach dozens of times in the areas of Flagler Beach where dogs are allowed and never once had any problem with people that bring dogs down there,leashed or unleashed. Why must some people make a mountain out of a mole hill over EVERYTHING that doesn’t please them?

    • Lyons says:

      Many people need to feel WANTED…so they scream over every little thing that doesn’t concern them and that will get them a little attention. People are needy. I say buy a fish to those people, but then they’d actually have a responsibility that they couldn’t handle….
      They like to try to remove the happiness from others that they find so elusive and can’t find for themselves…. MAYBE SMILE AND SAY HELLO TO PEOPLE AND BE FRIENDLY….THAT helps….
      Wake up in the AM, tell yourself it’s going to be the BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE and Tomorrow will be EVEN better and go OUT in the world (instead of sitting in front of the boob tube) and SMILES…SAY HELLO…SAY NICE DAY ISN’T IT? WHAT A PRETTY DOG, May I pat her??
      Maybe Volunteer at the animal shelter and get rid of your anger…..HELP someone, you’d find the love an animal gives is like NO OTHER! Give it a TRY. If you aren’t capable of maintaining a dog…try a cat. THEY STILL LOVE YOU!

  27. Pit Bull says:

    Do your kids pay taxes?

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