Bal Harbour may soon be going to the dogs: The village council tentatively approved an ordinance last week permitting the animals on certain parts of beaches.
The ordinance is an amendment to the village code, which currently prohibits dogs in parks and beaches. If approved upon second reading on March 17, dogs would be allowed only on the area of hardpack sand on village beaches west of the sand dunes for a trial period of 12 months. The ordinance would be a sunset provision or a trial period that would expire.
Residents packed the council chambers to voice their opinions on the vote, with many expressing approval of the ordinance.
But resident Dan Holder was concerned dog urine and feces on the beaches could lead to kidney diseases and other ailments.
“We are very careful in our community about human sewerage,” Holder said. “I don’t think it is appropriate to have dog feces on our beaches where people are walking and kids are playing.”
Dr. Michael Bloom, a resident of Bal Harbour, stated the wild cats that roam the sand dunes are more likely to spread diseases such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus spread through body fluids.
“Licensed pets should be of no health risk,” Dr. Michael Bloom said. “I don’t think there is any medical risk whatsoever.”
Resident Brian Mulheren was concerned that owners would not take care of picking up feces from dogs. He was also concerned about dogs not staying within the hardpack sand area and how speeding bicyclists might cause further problems.
“You are opening up a Pandora’s box without any restrictions,” Mulheren said.
Resident Kristopher Taplin, whose family owns the Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach, said that about four years ago, there was an attempt to pass a similar ordinance but that there were concerns hotels were not in favor of it.
“That is not true,” Taplin said. “I know several people who live in the hotels who are in favor.
“Every day, I see dogs being walked in the back [of our hotel], and it is never a problem,” Taplan said. “The hotel guests do not complain. People actually like it and think it is kind of nice.”
Assistant Mayor Patricia Cohen stated top hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and St. Regis are dog-friendly and allow guests to bring their dogs.
“It is an amenity and selling point for these hotels to say we have a gorgeous beach and an area where you can walk your dog,” Cohen said. “This is an enhancement for all of us, including our tourists. I don’t see a downside.”
Village Manager Jorge Gonzalez stated that there is a $250 fine for owners who fail to clean up after their dogs.
The village council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance, which will be considered for a final reading at the council meeting on March 17.