INDIAN RIVER SHORES ― Dogs are one paw closer to walking and playing unleashed on Indian River Shores beaches.

On May 23, the recently proposed Ordinance No. 542 allowing dogs off-leash on the beach was favorably considered by the Town Council. The proposal states that dogs be allowed on the beach off leash between sunrise and 9 a.m., and between 5 p.m. and sunset.

The new law is expected to be finalized at the Town Council meeting on June 27.

Still to be seen is how the new freedom for dogs and their people will affect sea turtle nesting season, which runs from March 1 through Oct. 31.

Once the new law is passed, it will also allow non-residents of Indian River Shores to walk dogs unleashed on the beach.

Mayor Thomas Slater said that the town’s beaches are public beaches, and the town cannot limit people on the beach to residents of Indian River Shores. But if you are not from Indian River Shores, Mayor Slater said, you will have to register your dog with the Public Safety Department of Indian River Shores to bring the dog on the beach. Mayor Slater suggested signage at access points to beaches that state clearly that you need to register your dog with Public Safety.

The ordinance will be paired with Resolution 19-07, which will spell out procedural rules and details. The reason for putting the details in a resolution is so it can be easily modified going forward.

“Implementation of the details is something that can be done by resolution, which will allow for flexibility as we go forward with this,” said Councilman Brian Foley. “We all have to recognize that it is somewhat of an experiment and we may need to fine-tune it; maybe it will work out great with the first implementation but maybe we will have to tweak it.”

The first reading of the ordinance passed 5-0.

There was some discussion concerning evening hours, with Town Manager Joe Griffin noting that in the winter the early sunset would only allow dog walkers about half an hour on the beach. The Council members agreed to start with a year-round 5 p.m. through sunset walking time, with the possibility of adjusting that in the future.

The Town Council discussed requiring dogs to be licensed and vaccinated, and whether licensing should be three-year or one-year. Those details will be spelled out in the accompanying resolution.

City Attorney Chester Clem said the new law would be strictly enforced, with a $50 fine for the first violation and increasing fines for further violations.

“We are all adults walking our dogs and we expect people to follow the law,” said Mayor Slater. “The last thing we need is our Public Safety Officers on the beach all the time. We would much rather have them protecting our neighborhoods and things of that nature. So, it is going to take some responsibility of everyone involved, the dog owners in particular, to keep things under control as they should be.”

For more information about Indian River Shores, call (772) 231-1771 or visit www.irshores.com, where you can sign up for news alerts.

Indian River Shores Town Hall is located at 6001 N. State Road A1A.

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