Our Wildlife Needs Your Help

Our wildlife needs your help! The City of Naples is considering a proposal to designate Lowdermilk Park as an off-leash dog park from sunrise to 8:30 am. The Conservancy is extremely concerned by this proposal and the effects it may have on our native wildlife. Shorebirds use our beaches for resting during long migrations, foraging, or to seek relief from damaging neurotoxins brought on by strong waves of red tide.

Also, sea turtles use these beaches for nesting, and eggs and hatchlings of an already depleted population would be made vulnerable to destructive play from dogs just being dogs. Finally, the water quality issues that could be exacerbated by dog waste contaminating our beaches and our waters, in addition to the enforcement costs this project could pose to the City of Naples, demonstrate why dogs on the beach at Lowdermilk Park should not be allowed.

The Community Services Advisory Board will meet to evaluate this project on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 2:30 PM at Naples City Council Chambers, 735 8th Street South, Naples.

The Conservancy needs you to attend this meeting and email the city to provide your comments opposing this proposal. If you are unable to attend, please still email the city to ensure your concerns are heard.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Please copy and paste the text below and send to Dana Souza, Director of the City of Naples Community Services Department.

Email: dsouza@naplesgov.com

Dear members of the Community Services Advisory Board,

I am writing to express strong opposition to opening the beach at Lowdermilk Park to dogs and ask the City of Naples to reject this idea. This issue is beyond personal feelings about dogs and the ability to take dogs to the beach. This is a matter of our community’s obligation to protect native wildlife, which depend on our beaches for nesting, resting and foraging habitat. Introducing domestic pets to beaches relied upon by native wildlife creates potentially serious consequences for habitat degradation, wildlife harassment and water quality impacts. These impacts are too serious to ignore, and too risky to chance.

[Insert factoids or editable text of sender’s choosing]

As our wildlife’s survival is increasingly challenged by rapid development and environmental impacts like red tide, rising sea levels, and climate change, it is our community’s responsibility to do our part, however small, to protect natural resources. Allowing dogs to roam, either on or off-leash, on the beach would likely disturb bird resting and foraging, potentially harm nesting sea turtles and endanger their population’s survival and worsen already declining water quality with fecal contamination from pets. In addition, allowing dogs on the beach also puts dogs at risk due to lack of infrastructure guaranteeing their safety and exposing them to harmful bacteria on the beach, and in the water, for which the City of Naples could be held liable.

Please reject this proposal that has so much potential to damage and further pollute the beaches that we love and that native wildlife rely on for their very survival.

Thank you for your service to the City of Naples and for considering my request.

Factoids for optional use in petition letters:

  • Dogs pose a serious threat to not only resting and foraging shorebirds and nesting sea turtles, but also their ecosystems which may be vulnerable to disruption by population fluctuations resulting from canine disturbance or harm.
  • Consistent disturbance to shorebirds could rob them of the necessary rest periods during long migrations or cause them to change their foraging habits.
  • Dogs can have direct effects on wildlife populations by chasing down and injuring shore birds or sea turtle hatchlings, or indirect effects, such as digging up an unprotected sea turtle nest. Allowing dogs at Lowdermilk Park beach would leave the wildlife that reside their defenseless against such harm.
  • While humans can cause shorebirds to become alert, they are more likely to flee, on foot or in flight, from dogs. A study written by Dr. Kevin D. Lafferty and published in the journal, Biological Conservation, informs us that disturbances to shorebirds, or activity that causes them to move or fly, was 16 times higher at public beaches than at protected shores, with off-leash dogs contributing a disproportionate amount of disturbances.
  • A recent study of dog control on the beach found that on average, only 10 percent of dogs were kept on leash by their owners. Of the 90 percent unleashed, only 34 percent were close enough to their owners to be considered under “voice control.” 50 percent of dogs in the study were classified as roaming with the potential to harm birds or other beach wildlife, and typically chased gulls and shorebirds.
  • Naples is already known to be a dog friendly city, championing three off leash dog parks, various indoor and outdoor dog-friendly shopping expeditions, dog-friendly dining, and even dog-friendly spas. We already have ample existing amenities to pamper dogs in areas where they do not pose a risk to local wildlife and can be enjoyed by owners and business owners alike.
  • All over Southwest Florida we are seeing a rise in red tide events. These red tide events have been seen to affect respiratory health and cause symptoms such as severe asthma or eye irritation to humans. These events are pushing wildlife onto beaches for relief from the harmful neurotoxins that infest their waters, who may be at risk to disturbance by dogs should they be allowed at Lowdermilk Park. In addition, we cannot risk putting our pets in the path of these dangerous bacteria and damaging neurotoxins.
  • Without proper fencing, such as that of a traditional dog park, there is no defense to inhibit dogs from running into nearby resort properties and private beaches surrounding the park or further into the street.
  • As referenced in USA Today, dogs are the 3rd or 4th in the list of contributors to bacteria in contaminated waters. Serious contamination events could be minimized if we keep dogs off this beach.
  • Remember that water is very mobile and contaminants can travel fluidly along all the beaches neighboring Lowdermilk Park beach.
  • Consider all the things that could go wrong at this dog beach park. The City of Naples must consider the financial and legal liabilities that could result from this project.

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Ensuring that our region’s leaders have the tools to make informed decisions is a critical role of the Conservancy. The Policy team ensures the proper stewardship of Southwest Florida’s natural resources by actively taking on regional issues to make a difference.

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