As the busy season is set to begin on Siesta Key and with many people traveling with their pets due to COVID-19, it is useful to remind visitors and residents alike that dogs (or animals generally) are not permitted on Siesta Key Beach. Sarasota County ordinance 14-48 prohibits any person that owns or has “custody or control of any animal” to take such animal on any public beach, park or playground. There is an exception for a dog that is “trained to assist or aid disabled individuals” and is being used for such purpose. The ordinance further provides that a person with control over the animal shall immediately remove any fecal matter created by the animal on public property and dispose of it properly. The fine for a violation of having a dog on the beach is $50 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense. If there is a third offense, the person must appear in court. There are also potentially higher fines for leaving animal waste in a public area.
The Siesta Key Association (SKA) routinely receives reports of dogs on Siesta Key Beach that are in violation of the ordinance. The SKA reports that the most common locations of such complaints are at Beach Access #s 1, 2, 10, 7, 4 and 3. Most of the violations are logged at sunset into the evening.
In addition to introducing pollution and bacteria into the sand and water on the beach, the presence of dogs on the beach can have a negative effect on the bird habitats according to Dick Miles, Siesta Key resident and site supervisor for Sarasota Audubon. According, to Mr. Miles, the presence of dogs on the beach can frighten female Snowy Plovers, an endangered species, into leaving their nest with their eggs. Per Mr. Miles, tragically once a female Snowy Plover abandons her nest, she is often unlikely to return. It is estimated that there are only 200 pairs of Snowy Plovers left in Florida, according to Mr. Miles, with several of them resident on Siesta Key beach.
For those that would like to take their dog to a beach, Sarasota County has designated certain beaches as pet-friendly. A link to those beaches can be found here: Dog Parks and Dog-friendly Parks | Sarasota County, FL (scgov.net)
A violation of the ordinance can be reported to Animal Services Department at 861-9500.