Pet owners fighting Pinellas County to get leash law removed from the 'dog beach' in Belleair Bluffs

Dogs only allowed on beach at Fort De Soto Park

BELLEAIR BLUFFS, Fla. -- Rusty is a 14-year-old Vizsla who loves to run free on a small slice of beach partially hidden by the Belleair Causeway.

The graying dog has been doing this for eights years. But now, Rusty’s unleashed romps are officially over.

This Belleair Bluffs “dog beach,” a secret gem for many in the area, has long been unfettered by leash law signs. Recently several warnings were put up along with other signs hindering access to the dog beach from the long sea wall.

“I’ve never seen an aggressive dog here,” says Rusty’s owner Linnea Paolillo. “I’ve only seen owners willing to help each other.”

Paolillo and thousands of other dog owners, some of whom are still letting their pets roam free despite the warning, signed a petition to keep their modest slice of paradise just the way it is. They fear the restrictions could get even worse.

Pinellas County says the leash laws have always been in effect. There just were not any signs up to enforce it.

Pet owners can face hefty fines if they are deemed irresponsible -- especially if a violent incident occurs with their dog.

Fort De Soto Park has Pinellas County’s only dog park where dogs are allowed on the beach in a designated area.

Paolillo says Fort De Soto is too far for her and Rusty. She is hoping the petition will restore the beach just the way she and Rusty like it, while there is still time.

“Rusty’s at the end of his life and there’s nothing I would love more than to keep him happy,” Paolillo says.

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