08/13/13 6:32pm
08/13/2013 6:32 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | The Southold Town Board approved a law to regulate dogs roaming free on the beach at its meeting Tuesday.

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.

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07/30/13 8:00am
07/30/2013 8:00 AM
FILE PHOTO | The confusion surrounding the leash law in Southold Town has been cleared up under the new draft law, officials said.

FILE PHOTO | The confusion surrounding the leash law in Southold Town has been cleared up under the new draft law, officials said.

More than a year after it was first proposed, Southold Town officials believe they have reached a compromise on a long-awaited leash law policy.

Now it’s the public’s turn to weigh in.

Board members will hold another public hearing to discuss the proposal tonight. The new draft law includes suggestions made from the public during previous town meetings, officials said.

The current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. If the proposal becomes law, dogs will be banned from town-owned beaches between May 1 to October 1 from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogs will then be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season, according to the proposal.

The new policy will still restrict dogs and other domestic animals from recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields at all times. While “no dogs are allowed” signs will remain in those areas, exemptions will be made for hunting and service dogs, officials said.

The public hearing is tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

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06/19/13 2:00pm
06/19/2013 2:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Southold Town Board has scheduled a public hearing July 30 to discuss a lease law proposal.

Southold Town officials said Tuesday they believe a compromise has been reached on the long awaited leash law.

During its regular session Tuesday, board members set a second public hearing to discuss the proposal for July 30 at 7:30 p.m. The proposed law now includes suggestions made from the public during previous town meetings, officials said.

The current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. If the proposal becomes law, dogs will be banned from town-owned beaches between May 1 to October 1 from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogs will be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season, according to the proposal.

The new policy will still restrict dogs and other domestic animals from recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields. While “no dogs are allowed” signs will remain in those areas, exemptions will be made for hunting and service dogs, officials said.

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

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05/30/13 10:00am
05/30/2013 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The town may soon have a say on dogs on the beach, such as this one taking a dip at Goose Creek in Southold.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | It’s time to move on from the great dog-beach debate in Southold Town.

This is an odd-numbered year, and in politics that means town offices will dominate the fall elections. It has been thus every two years for many, many decades.

Over that time Southold has become something of a political anomaly in that local races often lack clear-cut issues. Farmland and open space preservation is always a biggie, but since the two major parties pretty much agree on what needs to be done, and developmental pressure all but vanished with the Great Recession, there’s little to argue about. What will the candidates be talking about as November draws near? At this point, who knows?

It’s not usually a partisan question and so doesn’t make its way into campaign literature, but nothing ignites a Town Hall donnybrook the way animal-related issues do. Some years back, for example, in response to repeated noise complaints, the Town Board proposed a bill to regulate barnyard fowl like roosters and guinea hens in residential areas. The Town Hall meeting room was filled to overflowing with animated, and in some cases angry, people on both sides of the question. The noise may continue, but the law died.

In recent months the only question that’s threatened the peace at board meetings is whether the town should relax or continue its ban against dogs running free on municipal beaches. Again, emotions run high on both sides, which in most places might seem quite strange. But this is Southold.

What seems to have been lost in the verbal fog is that town law currently prohibits dogs on the beach at all times and the Town Board has been looking for ways to relax that restriction to accommodate pet owners. Since the town never enforced that ban, for all practical purposes it never existed.

Sure, giving a dog the freedom to stretch its legs on the shore is a wonderful thing — and is for many a cherished part of country living. But so is going to the beach without stepping on biodegradable land mines or being barked at or nipped.

We think the Town Board has come up with a logical and workable compromise to let the dogs run, except during the months and hours when people without pets are most likely to head to the beach. That seems quite fair, and we hope the process transferring that solution into law can proceed without hype, howling or hyperbole.

05/23/13 5:20pm
05/23/2013 5:20 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Restricting the dates and hours dogs are permitted on Southold  beaches is a sticking point for a policy attempting to reach a compromise on the controversial issue.

Comprise seemed hard to come by regarding Southold Town’s efforts to update its dog leash law, but officials took another stab at it during Thursday’s code committee meeting.

This time they may have succeeded.

After a 20-minute discussion, officials suggested easing the law that currently prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. One alternative would ban dogs from town-owned beaches from May 1 to October 1 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. A second proposal would shorten that period to begin on Memorial Day and run through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Under both proposals dogs would be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season.

The code committee includes only a few Town Board members. The group instructed Town Attorney Martin Finnegan to draw up a draft of the changes to to present to the full board. Supervisor Scott Russell said he favors keeping dogs off the beach past the traditional end of summer.

“We are still an active community after Labor Day so I would want to defer to the board on that,” he said.

The town would continue to restrict dogs and other domestic animals in recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields where signs are posted saying no dogs are allowed. Exemptions would be made for hunting and service dogs.

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, the supervisor said.

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