Low attendance for latest hearing on law regulating dogs on beaches

Previous public discussions on Southold Town’s proposed leash law often drew dozens of people, but attendance at Tuesday night’s hearing was noticeably sparse in comparison.

Only a handful of people attended the Town Board’s third hearing in the past six months on a draft law designating specific times dogs are permitted on town beaches without leashes. But unleashed dogs run through other recreation areas at any time.

This week, for the first time, those against allowing dogs on the beach appeared to be as equally vocal as leash law supporters.

“You lost me on the logic,” said Mary McTigue of Southold. “Why in a recreation area such as a park would a leash be required, but if I’m on a beach it’s not? All bets are off at 6 o’clock?”

Current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. After a first public hearing earlier this year, those who spoke overwhelmingly supported the idea of allowing dogs to run freely on the beach. Seeking a compromise, the town revised the proposal 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 off-season.

The draft 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 would be made for service and hunting dogs.

The town began re-examining its policies last year after Mattituck resident Dan Catullo said he was attacked on Bailie Beach near his home.

“This happened outside the purview of your proposed new law,” he said. “Thus rendering moot the very problem that has precipitated this action in the first place. I don’t want them in my yard or at my throat.”

Mr. Catullo said Southold has the draft law backward. He cited East Hampton’s recent approval of a dog leash law that requires pet owners to keep dogs leashed at all times while on the beach. East Hampton’s law reversed its previous policy that permitted dogs on the beach during the summer season during designated hours.

“They have seen the light in my view,” Mr. Catullo said. “Apparently these people are wise enough to go in that direction. It seems to me we are not wise enough to do the same.”

Fueling the concerns of the opposition, Councilman Chris Talbot suggested the leash law would probably not be enforced.

“Have you gotten a ticket for your dog walking around on the beach now?” Mr. Talbot said. “I find it hard to believe something would happen.”

Once a new policy is in place, the board will work with the chief of police and bay constables to develop methods of enforcing the code, Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The board tabled the leash law, but is expected to re-address the policy during its Aug. 13 meeting.

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