The shooting of a dog on Old Carrabelle Beach has infuriated neighbors.
According to a news release from the Carrabelle Police Department, on Thursday, Feb. 6 officers responded to a call regarding the shooting.
The release said Willard Leroy Smith III told officers he was walking on the beach when a dog was running on the beach towards him. The dog was not on a leash, read the police report.
Smith told police that, fearing for his safety, he fired one shot at the dog, wounding him.
The dog’s owners took the dog, an eight to 10-year old medium size mixed breed dog, to a Tallahassee veterinarian. According to Facebook posts by friends of the owners, the bullet went through muscle and into the dog’s ear canal, and lodged in shoulder muscle. The veterinarian decided to leave the bullet in the dog’s body, where it is not expected to cause further harm, according to the Facebook posts.
The Carrabelle police report said the dog was recuperating at home.
"Mr. Smith was in possession of a Florida concealed weapons license," read the announcement. "No charges are pending."
Aware of the public’s outcry, Carrabelle Mayor Brenda La Paz addressed the issue in advance of a McKissack Beach and Marsh Land Management Plan Workshop, slated for Monday afternoon at City Hall. The workshop concerned the future of beach area in and around where the shooting took place
"We understand the community is concerned about the incident at McKissack Beach this past Thursday afternoon," she wrote. " We realize that emotions are running high and that many in the community want to express their opinions and suggestions.
"Discussions regarding local animal control ordinances or the Florida concealed carry law are not included in the workshop agenda and will not be undertaken at this workshop," wrote the mayor. "Please be patient. If it is determined necessary to present this case before a judge, then it will be according to Florida law."
Several residents, some of whom had disputed Smith’s account to police, attended the workshop. Some had written online that Smith came up from the dunes carrying a gun, and that he had raised his gun pointing down at the dog, after the dog sat in place upon order by its owner.
The meeting did not address the specifics of the incident, but did include mention that the county has a leash law that extends to its beaches, and that requires that all dogs be either physically restrained, or under direct voice control with "the controlling person at all times fully and clearly within unobstructed sight and hearing of the dog."
The ordinance goes on to say ""voice control shall be considered direct control only when the dog is actually participating in training or in official showing, obedience, or field event.."
People with concealed weapons permits are considered to be within their rights to defend themselves if charged by a dog off leash.
Carrabelle Police Chief Gary Hunnings has urged residents not to confront a dog owner on the beach regarding their pet being off leash, but to report them to the Carrabelle police.
Suggestions were made by the audience to enforce significant fines for offenders, to designate a specific area of the beach for dogs off leash, or to create a dog park in Carrabelle.
It was also suggested that local RV parks make guests aware of leash laws, and that dog owners take pains to clean up any animal waste left on the beaches.