By Dan Moffett
South Palm Beach Town Council members have given unanimous preliminary approval to an ordinance that will allow police to cite and fine dog owners who take their pets on the beach.
The town already has on its books an ordinance that prohibits dogs on the beach, but it empowers police only to issue warnings. The new ordinance paves the way for developing a schedule of fines and procedures for dealing with violators.
Town Attorney Carolyn Ansay told the council on April 24 that ordinance would apply to “types of violations that are deemed uncorrectable.” Unlike violations of building codes that the town can enforce through a process of inspections, hearings, fines and corrections, people who take dogs on the beach pose a problem that cannot be reversed and that demands immediate enforcement.
“You have an ordinance for warnings,” Ansay said. “This takes it to the next level.”
Once cited, offending dog owners will have the right to appeal to a town code enforcement board or a magistrate, then ultimately the circuit court.
“This is definitely necessary,” said newly seated Councilman Bill LeRoy. “There’s no point having an ordinance if you can’t enforce it.”
Mary Wallace, who lives in the Palm Beach Windemere condo building just north of Lantana Municipal Beach, said irresponsible dog owners have become a recurring problem on her beach.
“At any given time, there are dogs out there,” Wallace said. “The dogs run free. We’ve had pit bulls around kids. It’s been going on for quite some time.”
Mayor Bonnie Fischer said the council will decide how much to fine violators after the ordinance comes up for final approval on June 12. It will take until June for the second reading of the new law to be properly advertised. The council is changing its monthly meeting date to the second Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7 p.m. May 8.
In other business, South Palm Beach will hold its annual Memorial Day program and cookout from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 28 at Town Hall. The event will feature tributes to veterans and active-duty military personnel. Shane’s Rib Shack of Royal Palm Beach will handle the catering. The event is free and open to residents and their families.