Dog lovers upset with city signage

Sheri Kotzum | 315-4353 | @DestinLogSheri |
Destin residents say they don't feel well represented or heard when it comes to the dog issue. [SHERI KOTZUM/THE LOG]

In front of the Main Street Park, Christy Young and 10 of her Destin neighbors stand on the sidewalk with their dogs. As their pups pull on their leashes, begging to go to the grass, their owners gently keep them on the sidewalk.

Main Street Park is just one of the public parks in Destin that recently had new “No Dogs Allowed” signs posted.

“It was so nice to bring your dog here and walk down by the water and on the dock, but you can’t do that anymore,” Young said.

These Destin residents are just a few of the many who have expressed concern and outrage at the new signs being posted around the city.

“I just don’t understand why it was necessary,” said Becky Pritchard. “The dogs are always on a leash.”

Although the signage seems new, city officials say the city ordinance requiring the signage has been in place for some time.

In an email to the mayor and City Council, Interim City Manager Lance Johnson stated that “staff is simply in the process of replacing old, damaged and missing signage in many parks and have not implemented any new rules.”

Johnson also referred to city ordinance 15-38-b, which states “Have been responsible for the entry of a dog or other domestic animal into areas other than the Destin Dog Park or other official city dog park, automobile parking concourses and walks immediately adjacent thereto, and in such other areas as may be clearly marked by signs bearing the words ‘Domestic Animals Permitted in This Area.’”

In other words, dogs are only allowed in areas that explicitly say domestic animals are permitted. Unfortunately for the dog owners, the city parks chose to ban dogs, even if they’re on a leash. And if they chose to violate the rule, they could face up to a $300 fine.

“I see more dogs in Target, Hobby Lobby and other shopping areas than I do in parks because they aren’t allowed now,” said Destin resident Bill Wilson. “If you go down to 30A, they have little watering and doggie bag stations for your dogs. Why can’t Destin be like that?”

“They tell us to go to the dog park but some of us have dogs that can’t go there,” Young said. “I know people whose dogs have been attacked there. I don’t want to take my little dog there and have her be trampled by a bigger one.”

Johnson said city staff will recommend which parks they want to be designated as on-leash parks at the next City Council meeting on Oct 15. The dog owners said they are ready to put up a fight.

“We pay taxes for them to maintain all these areas,” Young said. “Now, we just feel very restricted and it’s like ‘what are you going to take away next?’ What do you have against dogs?”