Happy Pet.
 by Laurie Buckley!

Passion 4 Pooches, Articles by Laurie Buckley

Responsible Owners.

It seems it’s time for the annual column about cleaning up after your pet, and otherwise being a responsible pet ownership. Oh, bother. I hoped to never have to right a column about this topic and now it seems that it will a regular affair. I read with frustration and some amusement the recent letters to the editor regarding pet owners on the beach who do not clean up their pet’s waste and do not control their dog’s with a leash.

Oh, if it was a problem ONLY on the beach. Recently on my daily morning walk with my dogs, I was accosted by an unneutered male pit bull whose owners allow him to run loose in the neighborhood. This goes beyond disrespectful to downright dangerous. After fighting him off, I walked several blocks passed a house whose owner just opens the door in the morning and lets the dog wander about. He was friendly but proceeded to follow us/play with us for several blocks. While this made walking my dogs more complicated I was more concerned that he wouldn’t find his way home. And this is all at 6:30 in the morning! Flash forward a couple of days, I and my dogs have a rendezvous, also at 6:30 a.m. with two dogs that are allowed to run the neighborhood in the early hours of the morning. It’s probably safe to say that all these unaccompanied dogs are pottying on everybody’s lawn.

If we were to outlaw dogs on the beach, we would probably have to outlaw them on the entire island, as I doubt my neighborhood is unusual. So I don’t think that’s the answer. We already have laws in place to address these issues. What‘s needed is more enforcement. Dog owners patrolling each other is not working. And it’s certainly turning up the tempers of those involved. And in most cases, these are not visitors behaving badly. These are island residents, who typically walk the same strip of beach about the same time every day. Not that hard to catch if it were to be tried. And while an offender may blow off his neighbor’s comments, he might be a lot more embarrassed if an officer of the law was to approach him on the beach. And of course, a healthy fine never hurt either.

Now the obvious argument against this is that law enforcement does not have the manpower to enforce these laws (why have them then?). I am not sure what the answer is. Maybe the collection of fines might help to pay for the manpower. But I think there is a good case to be made why these laws should be enforced on our island.

Let us review what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has to say about pet waste. Pet waste that is left on the ground may get washed into our storm sewers and go directly into our oceans, rivers, lakes and streams. Obviously there is no “maybe” if the pet is going to the bathroom directly into the ocean. This pollutant can kill fish, birds, and other forms of life and provide nutrients that promote the growth of weeds and algae, making the water green and slimy. And obviously, this water is also unsafe for swimming and drinking. And for the record, it is what is contained in the man made food we feed our pets that makes their waste a hazard, as opposed to that of wild fish, birds and animals.

The EPA also lists several very common diseases that can be transmitted to dogs, cats and people through feces. These include giardia, roundworms, salmonella, and Ecoli. In addition, your dog can spread or contract parvovirus or coronavirus through infected feces. All of these diseases are very serious and common. And those are just the more common diseases. Flies may also carry diseases from pet waste to humans.

There is also a concern that, as a tourist destination, visitors may be turned off by a disgusting mess left on the beach. They may chose to vacation next time at one of many other Florida beaches . I don’t write any of this in the hopes that the people who need to read this will. I don’t expect irresponsible pet owners to all fall into line after reading this. But I do hope that those that feel strongly about this issue may encourage our public officials to make enforcement of these laws a priority.

Shrimp Festival is fast approaching. I feel a need to share my opinion about dogs at the Shrimp Festival. Personally, I think it is typically way too hot and crowded for dogs. I encourage all pet owners to think twice before bringing their dogs on a hot day. If you do, be sure to bring plenty of water for your dog and allow him time to rest in the shade. And of course, no dog should be left in the car, even in the shade, now that the weather is getting warm again. Also, please remember that both the parade (think the Shriner’s cars) and the pirate invasions (think loud cannon explosions and gun shots) can be very noisy and nerve racking for your dog. A bad experience with loud noises can cause your pet trauma for the rest of his life.