There’s no formal proposal to establish a dog-friendly beach on Anna Maria Island, but Islanders are barking about the concept.
An informal Islander survey, conducted on Facebook and randomly at local events in recent weeks, found a lack of a majority consensus — about a third are enthusiastic about strolling the beach with their pup, about a third are opposed to sharing the beach with a mutt and about a third lack a definite opinion.
“We need a dog beach closer to our area,” said Connie Schuessler Alkire, posting a vote in the “yes” column. “I’m tired of driving 30 minutes north or south to get to one.”
In the “no” column, Sheila Ann Kellogg said, “I like dogs, but people do not clean up after their animals.”
Meanwhile, undecided voter Ricky Lannon said, “I’d have to know about any environmental consequences first.”
There was a super-majority opinion, however. Most people surveyed were surprised to learn that there are no state or federal prohibitions against dogs on Anna Maria Island beaches. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, for example, is not involved with permitting dogs on beaches other than at state parks.
The prohibitions — or allowances — are established at the local level in municipal ordinances. Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach all have ordinances prohibiting dogs on the beach, while dogs are allowed on the Palma Sola Causeway beach, which is regulated by Bradenton.
Longboat Key also has an ordinance prohibiting dogs on the beach, but town officials are awaiting findings from a citizens advisory committee on the matter.
The Longboat Key committee is being chaired by an advocate for a dog-friendly beach as well as a representative from the town turtle-watch program, who has raised concerns.
On Anna Maria Island, turtle watch volunteers also have concerns, but executive director Suzi Fox said she’s not opposed to a dog-friendly beach.
“The main thing that I have is a concern about the birds,” Fox said, referring to resting, roosting and nesting shorebirds and migratory birds on the shore. “I’m not so worried about the turtle nests as the birds that need to rest and roost.”
Fox said in two decades she hasn’t documented a dog disturbing a turtle nest on the Island. However, she has seen dogs flush birds from the beach, activity that the National Audubon Society says can destroy a nesting colony.
An option would be to study a location not popular with birds, perhaps on the bayside, Fox said.
Several Bradenton Beach dog owners have suggested using the area near the boat ramp at Coquina Bayside, which is managed by Manatee County and policed by the Bradenton Beach Police Department.
“I think if there’s a place where people aren’t sunbathing and birds aren’t foraging, I’d go for it,” said Bradenton Beach resident Dave Elliott, who for now remains in the “undecided” column.