More than a year after it was first proposed, the Southold Town Board passed its hotly debated leash law during its regular session Tuesday night.
The law is less restrictive than the one previously on the books that barred dogs on town-owned beach at all times. Now dogs will only be restricted on beach during certain hours.
The board voted 5 to 1 in favor of the law, with Councilman Jim Dinizio in opposition.
“There are reasons why the law is the way it is currently,” Mr. Dinizio said before the vote. “Dogs on the beach with strangers is at best a nerve-racking situation.”
During a series of public hearings on the issue, the community voiced overwhelming support for allowing dogs to run freely on the beach. Seeking to find middle ground, the town revised the law to ban dogs from town-owned beaches between May 1 and Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dogs could run free on town beaches during the offseason.
The policy also prohibits dogs and other domestic animals in recreation areas, picnic spots, children’s play areas and athletic fields where “no dogs allowed” signs are posted. Exemptions for service and hunting dogs will be built into the law.
“After talking with all these people for the last year, I think this is a compromise,” Councilwoman Jill Doherty said. “We owe the people a chance to try it.”
Board members said they would revise and adjust the policy in the future should problems arise.
The town is now working with the chief of police and bay constables to develop means of enforcing the code, Supervisor Scott Russell said. The town also plans to establish more extensive signage on beaches alerting people to the policy change, he said.