After the public spoke out about the need for a leash law in Southold, the town board has made some changes in the proposed code.
A resolution that was on Tuesday night's agenda noticing a public hearing on the subject was withdrawn. Southold Town Councilwoman Jill Doherty said after an "overwhelming" response from both dog owners and those who do not own dogs, she worked with Town Attorney Martin Finnegan to tweak the proposed legislation.
"We are withdrawing what we had -- and proposing to have dogs on leashes at all time on public property," Doherty said.
In addition, Doherty said, no dogs would be allowed on public beaches while a lifeguard is on duty.
An exception would be made if dogs were swimming, Doherty said. "If somebody wants to let their dog swim, it's difficult to have a dog on a leash," she said.
Under the revised proposed legislation, dogs would be required to be leashed on public beaches and roads, and in parks. No leash length was specified, she added.
"This makes it more practical for enforcement," Doherty said.
A new public hearing will be noticed to allow the public to weigh in on the changes to the proposed code.
Finnegan said exceptions were made for hunting and certain types of activities in the code; the revisions, he said, address many issues that were raised in January's public hearing.
Mattituck resident Dan Catullo came before the board to voice his concerns at Tuesday's work session.
Catullo said he believed a "strict" four to six foot leash mandate should be enforced.
A leash law, he said, would help prevent dog droppings. "You're going to have a certain intimidation factor," he said, adding that an owner would not be able to avoid being seen allowing the dog to leave a deposit on the beach if the animal was on a leash.
Enforcement might be enhanced, Catullo said, by having "vigilante" or neighborhood watch groups on the beach and in other areas to take photos and call the police if owners did not pick up after their dogs.
As for the argument that dogs owners have rights and pay taxes, Catullo said, "Taxpayers are equal but some are apparently more equal than others. I don't threaten and frighten people who have dogs, while their taxes give them the right to assault me through their surrogate."
Catullo also addressed the suggestion some have voiced, that dogs might have certain times of the day to run on the beach, and asked how time limitations would be determined. "If it's not safe now, will it be safe at 6:30? I can't take my kid out because of the fear that they might get their throat ripped out?"
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell reminded Catullo that "substantive changes" had been made to the legislation, addressing many of the concerns he'd mentioned. He suggested Catullo review the legislation.
Under the new legislation, Russell said, "Dogs will be tethered and the culpability will be on the dog owner."
The changes to the legislation came after a proposed local law regarding the walking and running of dogs on Southold Town beaches came under fire by several residents at a public hearing in January at town hall. Many said that the language of the law is too vague and that dogs need to be leashed on beaches — period.
The law as was previously proposed did not require beachgoers to leash dogs — only that they have control of the animal.
With recent litigation going on, Catullo said at the public hearing that that language was not clearly defined. Catullo said he was attacked by two dogs on Bailie beach in Mattituck last summer.
Peconic resident Robert Dunn, who lives near Goldsmith Inlet, agreed — as did many — that the idea of dogs running free on the beach is idealistic and romantic but no longer a reality as the population continues to increase with full-time and summer people on the North Fork.
“This law definitely need to be tweaked,” Dunn said. “And anything that is done, you need to give summer residents time to respond. The middle of winter is no time to pass a law like this.”
The current code regarding dogs and beaches does not allow dogs on any beach in town at all— a code that Supervisor Russell said needed updating as more people come out to enjoy the North Fork. Some sections of North Fork beaches are maintained by separate park districts — many of which ban dogs or require a leash law.
What do you think about a Southold Town leash law? Tell us in the comments.