Reaction to new Bark Island fees mixed

Dwayne Weber readied his dogs for a romp on the beach Saturday morning during the regularly scheduled Bark Island event at Pine Island’s Alfred A. McKethan Park.

The Weeki Wachee resident was among a dozen of the 48 dog owners who showed up with more than one pet at the event and was handed a slip of paper at the gate informing him that he’ll have to pay a little more the next time he comes.

“I think it’s reasonable considering the fact that the county lets us use the park,” he said, adding, “if the money goes to help the animals in the county that’s fine.”

To Weber the new fees are dog-cheap.

However, there are some that want the county to let sleeping dogs lie and refrain from the price hike.

Janet Mudge has been a regular at the Bark Island event for years and brings her three German shepherds. She said the increased fee is unacceptable and feels she and others with more than one dog are being dogged by the county for the extra money.

“We’re taxpayers,” she said, citing the fee as “too high.”

The Weeki Wachee resident suggests that they should just raise the fee an extra dollar per dog, not three. She says “it’s like half again the price.”

Mudge, who says she’s on a fixed income, is totally against the new fee. “For two hours? That’s astronomical.”

Opinions on the new fee are as mixed as the number of breeds of dogs at the event.

Jan Cannady of Spring Hill brought her three dogs, Bear, Baxter and Macy, to Bark Island and when she found out that she’ll have to pay a little more money on Jan. 26 when the new fees take effect, Cannady said, “What’s the reason?”

She said no one has said what the increase is for.

While “$3 per extra dog is not that bad,” she said. “For crying out loud, who else comes out here to the beach this time of day?”

The Bark Island event is held for 2 hours beginning at 7:30 a.m. and lasts until 9:30 a.m. on select dates through March.

Cannady feels the county is “taking advantage of the few of us (multiple dog owners) who get to come out here for this.” But without knowing why the fee was upped, she opposes it.

Bruce Hall of Spring Hill brought his two dogs to the event on Saturday.

Standing in the Gulf water with a camera hanging from his neck, Hall watched his dogs paddle around.

“Well for me, you know, three extra bucks aren’t too bad,” Hall said.

However, Hall comes forth as a dog owner advocate and said, “There are people who have four or five dogs or those who come with a neighbor to the event with their dogs. For them it will be quite a rate hike.”

Hall went on to say, “I’m not happy about it, but I’m still going to bring my dogs.”

Unsure of when the fee increase begins, Elaine Minutolo of Spring Hill only brought one of her dogs, a rescued greyhound, to the beach Saturday.

“You know the thing is, you can’t afford it,” she said. “There’s people out here that have enjoyed this for many, many years like ourselves. It’s our beach, just like everybody else’s beach. We’re taxpayers as well. We don’t get a tax break.”

Minutolo said it would be a great idea to have a beach specifically for dogs as she looked out along the coastline bordering Bayport.

“They (the county) should do something, it’s only fair,” she added.

Kathy Smith of Spring Hill, another regular at the Bark Island event walked up from the beach with her border collie and her other dog, a Mexican hairless.

Smith did not voice opposition to the increase and said, “The increase in the fees is not bad.”

To some of the regulars who attend the Bark Island event with multiple dogs, they’re just going to have to pay the dog-gone increase in fees on Jan. 26.

From their perspective they’re putting the county commission in the dog house for charging them the additional fee.

Dwayne Weber summed up the fee increase by saying, “I can understand the fact that they have to make sure the beach is clean for people to use. The fee increase is just a way for keeping the beach from going to the dogs.”

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