Pet waste pickup law met with skepticism from equestrians

COUTESY PHOTO | Members of the East End Livestock and Horseman’s Association on a recent trail ride.

Southold’s new pooper-scooper law may conform with federal stormwater discharge regulations, but it’s not sitting nicely with equestrians in town.

The expanded pooper-scooper law, adopted this April, requires residents to clean up the waste of cats, horses, swine, donkeys and goats in addition to dogs.

The East End Livestock and Horseman’s Association is bristling at the regulation, and not just because of the logistical possibility of having to follow after their horses on trails with wheelbarrows and shovels.

The group’s president, Samantha Perry, told the Town Board last Tuesday that she’s concerned about the slippery slope produced when animals that have always been considered livestock are suddenly legally classified as domestic pets.

She said if laws begin to define horses as pets instead of livestock, it could limit the amount of USDA funding for horse diseases, could change the tax classifications for people who have working horses on their farms, could change animal cruelty laws and could limit federal and state funding for working animals.

“Southold is a small town, but this sets the tone for bigger areas,” she said.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he’s not sure how classifying horses as pets could be detrimental to their owners. He added that the pooper-scooper law only governs horse owners’ activities on publicly owned lands, not in agricultural districts, where the legal definitions of horses as livestock are set by state Agriculture and Markets law.

Ms. Perry said in an interview later that she’s concerned about safety issues associated with cleaning up after horses on trails, including extra dismounts, the possibility that horses will run away while their riders are cleaning up after them, not to mention the sheer weight of their waste and the utensils needed to pick it up.

She said more than 80 percent of horse manure is water, causing the manure to break down significantly just one day after it lands on the trail. She added that horses also evacuate while walking, making it difficult for riders to know when there’s a steaming horse pile in their wake.

Mr. Russell has agreed to meet with horse owners to iron out potential changes to the language in the law.

“We didn’t pass this legislation because we perceived a problem,” he said. “It wasn’t because we thought we had a bunch of irresponsible horse owners running around.”

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