By Vicki Jackson
Residents of Clearwater Beach may want to use extra caution when taking their pooches out for a potty break. Recently, when my husband returned from such a walk, he presented me with a brown cube, stuffed with a plastic strip and another pink-fluid-coated plastic strip that he'd pulled from my puppy's mouth! He said more of the one-inch cubes littered neighborhood yards. The label cautioned, "Do Not Disturb-Rabies Vaccine."
When I dialed the phone number listed on the cube, I was referred to Ms. Betsy Haley, of Wildlife Services in Gainesville. From my description, she determined that what we had were fish-oil baits intended for raccoons, and had probably been dropped by helicopter over the area. She said a couple of them shouldn't hurt a dog.
Two veterinarians later concurred. They were more concerned with the effects of ingesting the plastic strip than the medication. While people are prohibited from buying vaccinations to administer to their own animals, apparently it's safe for Pinellas County to randomly disperse live rabies vaccine, where children and pets play. At the very least, we might have been warned.
That's not the only concern area dog owners now share. Police have been quite visible, cruising neighborhoods this week, stopping to remind dog owners of the rules and restrictions now in place. They have promised diligent monitoring of the situation.
As the owner of a young dog, I, for one, am relieved to think that perhaps more people will comply with the requirement to keep their animals leashed in public, and that maybe they'll pick up after their pets too. My neighbor was reprimanded for letting his dog run loose in the little park across the street. The officer informed him that he could take his dog to the north beach, but that it had to be on a leash unless it was in the water!
After visiting at a condo on north Clearwater Beach, I proceeded to lead my dog down toward the water, as I had often done before. A familiar red patrol cart promptly arrived and I was invited to exit the area, and handed a copy of Section 22.40 of the City of Clearwater ordinance that pertains to pets. "Dogs shall at all times be restrained and on adequate leashes when the dog is on the sandy beach or in the swimming areas abutting the sandy beach, located from the boundary of Somerset Street to the northern most boundary of Clearwater Beach."
"Say what? Where?"
While the official agreed that no one seemed to know exactly where that was, he pointed as he explained, "That's at the end of the baskets." So, the next time I take my four-legged buddy to the beach, I'll head north, beyond the line of wire trash baskets, and 'keep a bead' for the bait.
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