Stressing that their inquiry is “for informational purposes only,” county commissioners have asked Animal Control Director Fonda Davis to look into how laws that govern dogs on county beaches might be strengthened.

In his report at the June 18 meeting, Davis said he’s received an increased number of complaints regarding the presence of dogs on beaches, in terms of bothering visitors, not being under strict voice command, defecating without having their owners clean up after them, and other incidents.

Commissioner Smokey Parrish began the discussion by noting that every owner will say “my dog don’t bite,” but sometimes that means the dog won’t bite the owner, but may strangers. “It’s an issue,” he said.

“Safety means a lot of things to a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean everybody going down that beach feels safe,” said Commissioner Ricky Jones, noting the discussion leads to consideration of requiring leaches on dogs along the beach.

“It’s not the whole beach, they’re supposed to have a designated area,” said Chairman Noah Lockley.” I don’t think it should be the whole beach. I think it should be a certain area.

“Some people are scared of dogs, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “We’re responsible for safety, that’s a safety issue. People with pets have to work with us too.”

Former County Planner Alan Pierce noted that while dogs are allowed in portions of the state park, provided they are on leashes no longer than six feet, they are not permitted at all on the public beach there.

Commissioner Bert Boldt said he would like to see “a white paper” that delves more deeply into the subject. He later seconded Parrish’s motion to have Davis research the matter.

“Voice control is subjective but a leash is a standard of practice,” Boldt said.

Davis said his officers receive the majority of animal control complaints on weekends, during times when they are not scheduled to work. “We got a dead cat in the road, they don’t want to hear that,” he said. “They want you out there.”

Pierce noted that weekends often include an influx of college kids, many of whom like to frolic with their dogs. “Maybe they’re less attentive to their dogs,” he said.

Because increasing the hours when animal control officers work is a budgetary matter, it will likely be discussed during next month’s budget workshops, currently slated for 9 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, July 25 and 26. All constitutional offices, departments and non-governmental agencies have been asked to keep their requests at the same funding level as last year.

“We here in Franklin County are people-friendly and animal-friendly,” Boldt said. “Just a thought about personal responsibility in controlling (pets) in these wonderful areas.”