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Village Looks To Tighten Leash on Dogs on Beaches

Possible restrictions include only allowing dogs on village beaches east of Two Mile Hollow and west of Georgica.

The East Hampton Village Board made it clear at Thursday's meeting that it is leaning toward more restrictions when it comes to dogs on the beach.

Trustee Rick Lawler said he discussed some stricter ordinances regarding dogs on the beach with East Hampton Town Trustee Clerk Diane McNally to discuss the issue since the trustees also have jurisdiction on the beaches.

Possibilities include only allowing dogs on the beach east of Two Mile Hollow Beach and west of the westerly jetty on Georgica Beach. Another alternative is mandating that dogs be kept on a leash within 300 or 500 feet of the entrances. The current hours and times of year dogs are allowed on the beach would remain.

In East Hampton Village, the current law states that dogs are allowed on the beaches this time of year, but they are not permitted on the beach between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the second Sunday in May through Sept. 30.

Even in the face of $250 fines and in spite of plastic bags made available at the beach entrances, some owners leave behind their dog's business, particularly in the winter months.

Those in attendance at Thursday meeting believe some dog owners become lax during the winter months because less people use the beaches.

They said they want an opportunity to put into place new ideas that they think would help combat the problem of owners not picking up after their dogs on the beach.

Steven Gaines, a noted author and Wainscott resident who ran for East Hampton Town Board in 2011, is a regular at Wiborg's Beach in the village.

"I think the problem, by the way, is much bigger than the village," Gaines told the board. "Any tightening up you suggest I'm all for," he said. "The only thing I'm really afraid of is that somebody is going to come forward and ban dogs on the beach altogether and that would be a great tragedy. That's part of our culture, that's actually part of our heritage," he said.

This week, he started an educational organization of dog owners throughout the town dedicated to teaching dog owners to pick up after their dogs. Citizens for Responsible Dog Ownership (CReDO) would raise money, take out ads, and make people aware, much in the same way Citizens for Access Rights (CfAR) was formed in response to the infringement of beach access rights, he said. For more information on CReDO, visit its Facebook page here

"It takes education, education, education. We've got to organize," Gaines said. He asked the board to hold off at least six months before changing the laws to give his group an opportunity, but the mayor said the board is looking to tighten some rules before the summer arrives.

The way the law is currently written, a dog may run free on the beach as long as it is under the control of its owner.

"It's so loose right now — there's no fine or law that promulgated that you're issued a citation, there's nothing in place," Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said. 

Some dog advocates were more resistent to further restriction. "It would be a shame to restrict the geography so much," said Sara Davison, the executive director, at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, which worked the village a few years back to create a pamphlet for responsible dog walking. For instance, Wiborg's, a favorite place for dog owners to go, could be off limits.

"The issue of controlling the dog is kind of a thorny one," she said. However, "The passionate people here — it's almost a religious experience to bring their dog to the beach — are willing to work with the board," she said. "Good laws with a good crew of volunteers is a recipe for success. The most effective dog laws at the dog park and elsewhere become self policing."

"In the ideal world, everything you said makes perfect sense," Rickenbach said, but in reality, those who have ignored the rules "encumbered it for everyone else."  

Kevin Reynolds, a Springs resident, said he would volunteer three times a week to police the village beaches and pick up dog poop left behind. "If the trustees could just hold off a few weeks and give us an opportunity," he said. "You'll be less likely to put more restrictions in place."

But, McNally, who attended the meeting, said she doesn't feel the ideas the village board are discussing are cutting off access to dog lovers. "This doesn't appear to be a bit change for access to the beach," she said.

How do you feel about the changes the board is discussing? How would you feel if these changes were implemented.

ViralGrain March 08, 2013 at 08:36 PM
When you say people, you are referring to who? All people? There are many local people who I would bet like the fact that we are free to take our dogs on the beach. I bet their are plenty of local people who don't want government trampling on our freedom also. Don't we have enough laws and regulations in this country already?Maybe no one should be able to go to the beach after sunset. Maybe you had a bad experience and I can appreciate that. Maybe dogs like you. Not all dog owners are in control of their dogs and they should be dealt with accordingly and individually. I had a bad experience with some lady and her 2 Afghans once. But that was one experience out of countless great experiences with other dogs and their handlers. I really never came across any poop on the beach. I even look for it now thanks to this stupid topic and still have yet to see any. Everything is a privilege. Your only rite is to die and pay taxes. So by you saying its only a privilege to take my dogs to the beach is saying you have the rite to dictate my freedoms. If you don't like to be around dogs on the beach then its simple, go to the beach when dogs are not allowed on them. Why is your rite to use the beach how you feel the beach should be used more valid then my rite to use the beach how I feel fit to use it? Are you better then me? Are you better then everyone else who takes pleasure in taking their dog to the beach? I don't think so. Weather you grew up here or not if you don't like it leave.
JOE CITIZEN March 08, 2013 at 08:46 PM
I wasn't saying that I was better than anyone. The statements above were saying that only out of towners want to eliminate dogs on the beach and I wanted to show that local people are in favor of it as well. I'm not saying that my individual rights supersede your individual rights, but the rights of the few can not impede on the rights of the many. The reality is that the large majority of the people who use the beaches do not bring dogs. The people that bring dogs are in the minority. And the people who can not control their dogs are an even smaller minority. So that very small group of people should not impose their supposed rights on the majority. That's the way a society works. It shouldn't mean someone has to leave a town because of it. Almost every other place I know of does not allow dogs on the beach. Its not that big of a deal, but it affects the quality of life for the people that want to enjoy the beach without someones dog ruining it for them.
Rushwind March 08, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Like dog excrement is the only foul thing on the beaches? Baby diapers, refuse from lunches, glass in fire pits... Oh, you want to restrict urinating in the ocean too? What are the fish going to do? Hold it until they are 20 miles off shore? Let's turn East Hampton into the Nanny State NYC has turned into why don't we. I think that is what would make you all happy. So a few bad dog owners are not as responsible as they should be. I say then we don't let babies on the beach to reduce the risk of fouled diapers because there are a few lazy parents. And no eating on the beach either because someone might not pickup after themselves. You guys are on a slippery slope.
CUL8R March 08, 2013 at 10:10 PM
It is a privilege to be able to take your dog on the beach, many places do not allow it for the very reason that is being argued in the village now...irresponsible dog owners. In general it is normally the smaller group that ruins it for the rest. Perhaps stricter time frames for dogs on the beach could be enforced (6am-10am) and/or some sort of pup pass can be purchased for the summer season and if caught in violation of an ordinance (dog not under control, pooping and failing to clean up, failing to purchase a pup pass, being on the beach during restricted hours etc) the pass is revoked and so is the privilege of having your dog on the beach for the rest of the summer - TCO's could monitor the dogs as they enter onto the beach - it may not work but its a thought. I think instead of going straight to a dog ban, there should be some sort of stricter policies regarding the dogs tried out for the upcoming season, if they don't work then maybe a ban during the summer of 2014 would be in order.
CUL8R March 08, 2013 at 10:28 PM
one suggestion was to leash the dogs for the first 500 feet from the beach entrance...The town has the same law and apparently no issues with it...why not try that?!

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