Guest Column

Judge John: Sand Life Law – Who let the dogs out?

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There’s a reason for the saying hu-Man’s best friend.  Each reader will likely have had a certain special canine come to mind on reading the subject of this article.  For Judge John, she was Athena (nicknamed The Amazing Flying Wonder Dog), but from childhood Gypsy, Flick, Happy, and Rosie also come especially to mind. Apparently, humans and dogs have lived together since the very beginning of our evolution into bi-peds.

Dogs are a big part of the Sand Life.  Some breeds particularly enjoy playing in the ocean, while most enjoy running and digging in the sand. Because of health and safety concerns for both people and dogs, all of our beach cities have adopted special dog laws, including a new one very recently in Jacksonville Beach. 

It is important that all dog owners be aware that the laws and rules are different depending on which beach city you are in. Some, but not all, of those differences are reviewed here.  Each city has its rules on its website. In all locations at the beach, it is absolutely the owners’ obligation to “pick up and properly dispose of the poop.” It is the minority of dog owners who do not pick up their dogs’ fecal matter who are primarily responsible for more restrictive dog laws, along with those who do not control vicious or ill-behaved dogs. Each city has the ability to fine non-complying owners, although the difficulty of catching someone “in the act” of not removing defecation is very difficult.  Judge John requests all citizens’ cooperation in asking violators to please comply. Nothing spoils a day at the beach more than a family member stepping in dog-poop left behind.*

The recent Jax Beach law means that the rules regarding when dogs are allowed on the beach are the same between Jax and Neptune Beaches. While always being on a leash, dogs are allowed at any time during the months between October and March inclusive. In all other months, dogs can only be on the beach before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.  This is both because in our sub-tropical climate the heat can be unhealthy for canines and because our beaches are more and more crowded during those hours raising the opportunity for conflict. Dogs are allowed (again leashed) more hours in both Ponte Vedra and Atlantic Beach.

Leashes are an area where the laws differ.  The new Jax Beach law requires a leash of no more than 8 feet — while the 12-foot rule is in effect in Atlantic and Neptune Beaches. 

Our understanding is that the 8 feet standard was adopted both for the safety of the dogs themselves and especially for other people enjoying beach activities such as jogging. Judge John can speak from personal experience on the hazards of beach jogging while trying to get around a very long leash, a small dog, and an oblivious owner. 

Related to leashes are tethers. In Jacksonville and Jax Beach, it is no longer legal to leave a dog tethered 24/7. In fact, a dog tethered in a yard must be in plain view of a person at all times. It is our understanding that tethering is unhealthy for a canine and has the tendency to make them vicious. Also, it is required that any dog in the bed of a truck be attached to two tethers.  Please report any violations to Animal Control. 

Another change in the Jax Beach law is that dog licenses are no longer required.

Both because the rules/laws are different from city to city, and that many beach visitors are not beach residents, Judge John heartily recommends that dog rules be prominently posted at beach accesses, to promote the likelihood of them being followed.  We also request that all beach citizens help to gently educate our guests on beaches dog etiquette and laws. 

Many thanks to all of the public officials who helped in the preparation of this article, and especially to Jax Beach City Council-Person Sandy Golding of Beach Watch, and Officer Denzel Dehm of Neptune Beach.

We would love to hear from our fellow beach residents any ideas for future articles concerning our Sand Life.

* – For example:

Neptune Beach 6-31 Any person having a dog on the beach during the above-enumerated hours must carry with and on such person suitable materials and utensils with which to remove from the beach any fecal matter deposited by such dog and must remove any fecal matter immediately upon its deposit by the dog under the person’s supervision and control.

John Miller is the Special Magistrate for the City of Neptune Beach. His law firm, Rock Solid Law, provides expert guidance in all areas of Estate Planning, Trust & Wills, Real Estate, Closings, Title & Escrow and Small Business Representation. 904-241-1113

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