Dogs may soon join their owners on the beach in Harrison County.
County supervisors are considering changing the beach rules to allow dogs to play in the sun and sand. Currently, no animals of any kind are allowed on Harrison County's 26-mile beachfront.
Not all the supervisors agree dogs on the beach are a good idea. But District Three Supervisor Marlin Ladner wants the board to re-consider.
Ladner asked Sand Beach Director Bobby Weaver on Monday to draft a proposal that would open only limited areas of the beach to dogs. Ladner says some people in his district have talked to him about easing the dog ban.
Weaver says about a year ago he checked with other beach communities. He found not many allow dogs, and the ones that do are in restricted areas during certain hours, and the dog must be on a leash.
Even though the beach signs clearly say "no dogs," Weaver says pet-owners bring them to the beach all the time.
"It's an enforcement issue," Weaver said. "We need to look at it and get responsible owners, if this is approved, to go to the beach with their animals and follow the rules and guidelines, because if dogs become unruly or something, then it might prevent them from being able to do it in the future. So it's all about being responsible."
But District One Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius says opening areas to dogs creates other problems.
"Once you open it to dogs and the people with the horses who want to ride horses come on, and then there's an argument whether you're being selective against one animal versus another," Eleuterius said. "This has gone five, six times over the past 20 years, these cases have come up over and over."
Eleuterius is also concerned about the county's liability if a dog bites someone. Weaver says if the supervisors go along with Ladner's proposal, each city would probably have its own designated area for dogs.
Weaver will have his report ready for the supervisors to review at their second meeting in June.
In the past year, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department has written only two tickets to people who took their dogs to the beach. Also, there is no set fine for violators. Sheriff's deputies say the justice court judge reviews the circumstances and then decides on a fine.
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