For the first time in 36 years, Volusia County is allowing dogs on the beach.
The county celebrated the launch of its new dog-friendly beach pilot program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 4. The 18-month program — which allows dogs on a 0.6 stretch of beach between Milsap Road and Rockefeller Drive in Ormond Beach — began on Nov. 1.
"The tide has changed in Volusia County," County Councilman Troy Kent said at the ceremony. "We are making history this week — the first time in 36 years — and Volusia County, you are getting your beach back."
The county has prohibited dogs on the majority of the beach since it took over beach regulation in 1987. Before the pilot program, dogs were only allowed on two beach parks: Smyrna Dunes Park, in New Smyrna Beach; and Lighthouse Point Park, in Ponce Inlet.
Kent, who proposed and pushed for the pilot program from his first meeting on the County Council, said that the community will prove to the county at the end of 18 months that the program can be successful. Then, he said, other beachside communities will ask for their own stretch of dog-friendly beach.
"This wasn't just an initiative for me — this was a mission," Kent said. "During my tenure as a city commissioner in Ormond Beach, I've got to say I heard the echoing sentiment from constituent after constituent that they wanted to be able to bring their dog to their beach in Volusia County.
Nanette McKeel Petrella, president of Daytona Dog Beach Inc., said there is much to celebrate now that the pilot program is active.
"We celebrate the outpouring of support and encouragement coming from dog lovers near and far," Petrella said. "For over two years, we asked you to believe in and support a dream, and every time we started to doubt, you came through in ways small and large to lift our spirits and give us the boost we needed to keep pursuing the dream. We celebrate the consistent volunteer efforts and generous financial support that allowed us to fund this dog-friendly beach without taxpayer dollars."
Daytona Dog Beach Inc. is funding the annual cost of dog waste bag dispensers for the county, estimated at $6,000. It also funded the installation, which cost $2,574.
Petrella thanked the council and staff for their role in making the pilot program possible.
"Because of your dedication and hard work, our beloved dogs will be able to put their paws on the sandy shores once again," Petrella said. "Let this historic milestone be a beacon of hope, a reminder that when we stand together, we can turn dreams into reality and embrace a brighter, more inclusive future for all."
Prior to the pilot program, there were two recent attempts by the County Council to allow dogs on the beach — one in 2021 and another in 2014. Both were voted down.
"And then Troy Kent came along," County Council Chair Jeff Brower said. "Troy doesn't know the meaning of the word 'no,' and he wanted this for his district, and he worked hard, he worked with Nanette [McKeel Petrella] and Troy, my hat is off to you."
The program was also made possible thanks to Ormond Beach philanthropists Nancy and Lowell Lohman, who donated $100,000 to the county to offset the cost of hiring the new animal control officer. The new officer will monitor the dog-friendly beach for 10 hours a day, four days a week.
Nancy Lohman said that the addition of a dog-friendly beach in the community is critical because it offers residents another way to spend time with their pets outdoors, increases safety and boosts local economic development.
"I'm so thankful that we've looked at this from all angles and said this is the right thing to do for our community," she said.
To abide by the pilot program's regulations, dogs must be on a 6-foot leash, and owners should pick up any dog waste and must be able to provide proof of rabies vaccination. Violators face a fine of $150 to $250.
"We want to keep the beaches clean so we all stay happy and healthy," said Angela Miedema, Volusia County Animal Services director.
Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington said the commission unanimously supported Kent's proposal for a dog beach since they heard about it.
"Councilman Kent was like a dog with a bone on this issue," Partington said. "Tenacious. He made it happen and we're grateful for that."
The leash is now in the community's hands, Kent said. In order for the pilot program to expand or become permanent, the community has to ensure the beach remains clean and safe for everyone, he said.
"We've come this far because of the collective efforts of all of you," Kent said. "Now more than ever, we can't give anybody a reason to take this away from us. ... Just remember, the best beach days are the days that your footprints and your canine companion paw prints are in the sand next to you."