Delray Beach code enforcement officers Joe Lucarelli (left) and Robenson Dejardian (blue shirt in rear)
walk with beach visitors accompanied by their service dog. The visitors — who declined to be identified —
are permitted to bring their service dog to the beach. Lucarelli monitors the beach shortly after sunrise
several days a week as part of a stepped-up effort to reduce the number of animals on the city beach.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Rich Pollack
The honeymoon is over for people who violate Delray Beach’s ordinance prohibiting dogs or any other animals on the city’s public beach.
Beginning this month, police and code enforcement officers will be writing citations to violators, with those citations carrying a $50 fine for uncontested citations or a $125 fine if the citation is disputed.
As part of a stepped-up effort to reduce the number of animals on the beach — mainly dogs — code enforcement officers and police officers issued 11 written warnings to violators through the first 29 days of last month, according to city records.
Several of those citations have been written by Joe Lucarelli, a Delray Beach code enforcement officer who is on the beach shortly after sunrise several days a week in an effort to ensure dogs don’t get to the public beach where kids could be playing or others could be sunbathing.
“This phase is an educational phase,” Lucarelli said late last month.
While there have been one or two dog owners who were unhappy with increased efforts to enforce the local ordinance, Lucarelli said the majority of violators have been cooperative.
“Most of the people take the warning without attitude,” he said.
Some beach visitors are accompanied by service dogs, which are permitted.
During the current enforcement effort, Lucarelli has heard a variety of excuses, with some residents telling him they were unaware of the pet ban.
To ensure awareness, the city has placed signs along State Road A1A at most of the walkways leading to the beach. Some residents, however, still say they didn’t know about the rules.
One of those residents is Laura Santos, who brought her 7½-year-old miniature pinscher, Isabella, to the beach shortly after Lucarelli and another code enforcement officer, Robenson Dejardian, had left.
Santos said she was aware of efforts to step up enforcement of the ban, but had been told by other residents that it was OK to bring her pet to the ocean. When she learned that the ordinance was indeed in effect and that citations will be issued, Santos decided to leave.
“I want to be able to bring my dog to the beach but if I can’t, I won’t,” she said. “I’m not going to come here and get a ticket.”
Santos said she can understand the concerns of residents worried about the possible health hazard that could result from dogs on the beach.
While she is conscientious about picking up after Isabella, she said she has seen some dog owners who are not as responsible.
Concerns about noncompliance with the city’s ordinance surfaced during a May City Commission workshop meeting in which a proposed pilot program for a designated dog beach was shot down.
While there were many proponents of the pilot program, an equal number of residents told commissioners they worried that dogs on the beach posed a health and safety issue and complained that the city ordinance wasn’t being followed.
Prior to the stepped-up enforcement that began in June with awareness and educational outreach campaigns, no citations for violations of the ordinance had been written by police officers this year, according to city records. Only nine citations had been written in 2015.
Delray Beach police officers are part of the stepped up enforcement effort and have been issuing written warnings. The Police Department also enlisted volunteers and community service aides to increase awareness, but they are no longer active in the effort because they don’t have ticket-writing authority.