Sarasota to consider extending leash law into Payne Park

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SARASOTA - If you take your dog for a walk at Bayfront or Gillespie parks in Sarasota, you're required to keep it on a leash. That ordinance does not include the popular Payne Park, but some residents think it should be.

Some residents are asking city commissioners to consider extending the ordinance to the park, which includes a playground, track, and even a disc golf course. Those in favor of putting some policies into place say it comes down to a matter of safety – both for children and smaller dogs.

“People say that their dogs will never hurt flies in any kind of way. And it just takes that one moment that a puppy or a dog could freak out. And kids can bring that out in dogs. And I do believe they should be on a leash at parks like this,” says concerned parent Lisa Ricketts.

And she is not the only one with that feeling. Zac Santoro uses the new disc golf course and says dogs on the run spells trouble for the sport. “Dogs happen to be fond of discs. They could end up chasing them, biting them, destroying them. So that's an issue,” says Santoro.

Even some dog owners fear little dogs could be in danger if they encounter an unhappy pet twice their size. “Big dogs run up to little dogs and terrorize them; you don't know if they're friendly or not, you know. Little dogs tend to growl and they can get in a fight,” says dog owner Nicole Bluhm.

And with all of these concerns, in January city commissioners will discuss whether or not to keep or get rid of the no leash law at Payne Park.

“I think dogs are great. I love them, I think they're better than most humans. So give them the flexibility, let them run around,” says Ryan Giannini.

“There are very few places in Sarasota where a dog can run free,” says dog owner Rebecca Donelson.

City commissioners will discuss next month if they will extend the leash ordinance to Payne Park, and also look at all of its dog policies at parks.

Beyond a leash law in the park, another other option would be building a separate fenced dog area within the park where dogs can run freely. However that will come with an added cost. There's also the option of having a pet-free area around the playground where dogs would not be permitted to be close to the children.