An Ocean Springs woman asked city leaders Tuesday night to allow dogs back on the Biloxi Bay Bridge. Donna Bright came up with the idea after a woman was sexually assaulted on the bridge two months ago. Since then, a lot of women have been nervous about walking the span alone, especially at night. Bright said one precaution they can take is having their pets for protection.
The only time Bright has ever walked across the Biloxi Bay Bridge was back in November. She took part in a WAVE walk to show support for the woman who was sexually assaulted on the bridge. That was when she learned from the mayor how irresponsible pet owners prompted the board to ban dogs on the Ocean Springs side in 2009.
"She spoke with me about the concerns of the community and I totally understand it. It's gross to walk in pet feces," she said.
But Bright said in light of the violent attack on the bridge, the board should reconsider the policy.
"The perpetrator of the sexual assault on the bridge saw an opportunity. I'm not giving that opportunity when I've got my dog with me. She's a deterrent to crime," said Bright.
"For me it really is a safety issue. It really is about keeping the awareness of sexual assault and what are the ways we can keep ourselves safe. I want women to be able to walk that bridge at dusk and be safe, and my way of doing that would be to bring my dog," she added.
Most of the people WLOX talked to agree that dogs should be allowed to accompany their owners on the walkway.
"Particularly at night, I think it's a good idea for someone to have a dog," said Dr. Francis Selman of Ocean Springs.
"We should protect people at all cost. If it means having dogs on the bridge and occasionally might be stepping in a pile of waste, you're protecting people," said Emily Baas of Orange Grove.
But some said they don't want to dodge dog droppings while trying to exercise and enjoy the view.
"If you allow dogs on the bridge again, you're going to have the same issue all over again that you had before," said Barry Mends of St. Martin. "If you want to go running at night with a dog, go along the beach. You got plenty of room there."
To encourage pet owners to clean up any messes, Bright is suggesting the city put out bags and waste bins along the bridge. Bright said she also has friends and neighbors who have volunteered to pick up pet waste when they walk with their dogs.
"I'd say let's deal with it as a community. Let's not ban things that are actually really positive. Let's find solutions," said Bright.
The mayor also wants to improve security by installing cameras on the bridge. Mayor Connie Moran said MDOT will not fund the project. She said the police department will be meeting with a security camera vendor on Friday.
Police still have not made any arrests in the case.
By the way, service dogs are still allowed on the bridge.