Will Dogs Be Back on the Island?

By: Sabrina Zimring
By: Sabrina Zimring

St. Andrews State Park rangers kicked off their enforcement campaign of a little known law against pets and alcohol on Shell Island around Memorial Day.

By the time Newschannel 7 reported the story first, a few weeks later, a small but vocal group of dog owners were already complaining. Since then the state has handed out more citations, and the group has grown.

"There's been a concentrated effort by state law enforcement to regulate laws we didn't extend for a long time. It's created a lot of heart burn and concern from people where it's tradition to take their pets to the island."

Bay County commissioners seemed to be in agreement Thursday that Shell Island just isn't the same without man's best friend.

"In all my years I've never heard of anyone getting bit or attacked by a dog or a dog being a problem over there."

One third of the island owned and operated by the state park service, one third owned and operated by federal government the center part is private property. That's on option for Bay County to go into that center and work with state a federal government and create a pet friendly area in the center that we'd control and govern.

But state park officials say dogs disturb the island's fragile ecosystem, so the board wants a compromise.

"It may be we make an agreement that during bird nesting season from here to here. Pets won't be allowed or contained in specific areas."

Bay County commissioners and staff are exploring their options. One suggestion is to create a dog friendly beach on the mainland.

The commission plan to readdress the issue at the July 20 commission meeting. Other state parks have set aside areas for family pets. In those cases, the state usually agrees to let the county manage that portion of the park.


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