Dog Friendly Beaches of Florida
By Kelly Dean
With over 1300 miles of coastline and about 700 miles of beaches, Florida has plenty of water for the relocating beach-reveler. It is outdoors and it’s pretty wide-open, so people can’t help but ask if they can take the dog along to the beach. Friends from up north ask me the question often. Florida is largely dog-friendly as it pertains to businesses and rentals, and you can read about that here. The Sunshine State has plenty of pet-friendly beaches too. But in some places it’s spotty at best and other places it’s quite common. Regardless, it’s assumed the general courtesy of “leash and baggie” are top-of-mind as well.
Businesses on private property can decide whether to be pet-friendly or not, and one can simply ask that establishment or housing management, this includes beachside properties. Beachside establishments generally fall in line with the local ordinances, but might have special areas for pet owners.
No Dog Zones
Dog-free zones on public beaches are determined by local county and city ordinances and can be a bit sketchy. Add to that, there are so many dog-friendly beaches in the whole state of Florida that it’s beyond the scope of one article. What can be done is give an overview of the types of dog-friendly beaches and what areas apply dog-friendly attitude across the board. Nevertheless, you’ll have to check locally, and patronize the places where you are going to be.
Every major beach area in Florida has some public areas where you can take your pet to enjoy the beach: from Panama City to New Smyrna; from Tampa-St. Petersburg to Jupiter, from Sanibel to Islamorada. You simply need to check and not assume.
The Beach Counties
Some counties allow dogs on the beaches in general. This is great because you don’t have to be concerned as much about where you stray. But countywide acceptance is not as common as it would seem. For example, Lee County, on the southwest Gulf coast at Fort Myers has no overall ordinances against pets on the beaches, so that makes for large beach areas to walk your little friend, so long as there isn’t any other isolated areas that are restricted for other reasons. It is expected you have the dog on a leash and you are able to pick up after the little critter.
Restrictions usually occur when a public park is also located at the beach area, which doesn’t allow pets. It seems they don’t want to make exceptions as it relates to public park rules in general. One must simply pick a different span of beach, but overall, the open county is by far the most free — and where I would want to live with my pet.
The beachside cities within the counties are allowed to make their own ordinances; however, this can cause some areas to be spotty-restrictive. This makes the city a bad guy in many pet owners’ minds, but it’s generally stems from the local homeowners, of course. For some reason, they determine dogs are a negative, which I find hard to believe. Dogs are charmers at the beach. I find most problems with pets to be the owners, not the pets. If Fido accidentally leaves a message behind, you might have a chat with the owner, oh, and you might want to have a talk to the seabirds and other wildlife about their civic duty as well (pun intended). Regardless, carry a little baggie and a leash with you to uphold Fido’s reputation. The seabirds get a pass, I suppose.
The Dog Beach
These wonderful dog beaches are set aside just for your pet and they are quite nice. Many are no-leash areas. Since they are generally adjacent to other public beaches, they are just as easy to get to as the public beach. You don’t have to feel like you’re bothering anyone; your pets can socialize with other pets; and there are often amenities designed just for the pet, like showers and playground equipment.
One Other Thought
As stated, most problems we see with pets are due to the owner’s mishandling, but here is something worth noting: Many folks are bothered when pets interfere with or chase seabirds. Beach birds will fly and skitter just because you walk by, and that’s expected, but purposely letting pets chase birds is not nice. It looks cute in the movies but other beach users want to enjoy the birds as well.