Venice looks to expand rules allowing dogs in parks

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VENICE, Fla. - The city of Venice is already known by pet lovers as having the only dog beach on the Suncoast. Now city leaders are looking at allowing dogs at other parks. But there are some concerns.

Tuesday the Venice city council took the next step in allowing dogs in some park. It would allow owners more freedom…that's if not too many people mind.

One of the most popular beached in Sarasota County on Wednesday just happened to be in the City of Venice at Brohard Paw Park. That’s where Wendy Friend brings her four legged friend Nala all the time. "This is the only dog beach around."

She's excited to hear the city could be open to welcoming dogs at more than 20 additional public parks and recreation areas. "We would have more places to take them. We could meet more people."

Venice council member Emilio Carlesimo is the point person for the city's parks and recreation advisory board. "Dogs have become a very big draw for Venice. We are known as a dog-friendly city."

While other local governments say keep out, Venice is reaping the benefits.

"I come up here once or twice a week." Alicia Penrod comes all the way from Ft. Myers for the park and stays for more. “We always stop and get something to eat. There is a beautiful Mexican restaurant in town that lets you have your dogs outside when you eat."

Last year the city passed a doggie dining ordinance, where restaurants can get a permit to let dogs eat with owners. "These are amenities people are interested in. Why not be open to these things?" says Carlesimo.

Of course there just can't be a free for all. "I think it's an excellent idea, provided there are rules and the rules be enforced," says Osprey resident Sam Fiske.

Issues about waste and safety have been raised. Not everyone is a dog lover. The city has gotten some complaints. "Their concern is that they are afraid of dogs. They think the parks board might be putting dogs ahead of humans," says Carlesimo.

As far the new parks go, dogs will not be allowed at places like athletic fields or in the vicinity of where children play. Owners must pick up after their pets. The other big rule is they would have to be on a leash.

"We want to respect everyone's rights. The parks board felt this was something that would be good for the city and good for its citizens," says Friend.

Council members heard the latest at Tuesday’s meeting; they now want staff to write up the new language and bring it back to them for consideration. There will also be the ability for public input during the next meeting on it.