Southold nearer to law allowing dogs on beaches

Dan Catullo, who lives on the beach in Dan Catullo, who lives on the beach in Mattituck, opposes a proposal that would allow dogs on leashes at all town beaches, except where a lifeguard is on duty. Catullo spoke at a Southold Town public hearing on the subject. (July 30, 2013) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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Southold moved closer to officially allowing dogs on its beaches, despite concern from some residents that the proposal as it is now is too dog-friendly.

The proposed law considered Tuesday night by the Southold Town Board would allow dogs on leashes at all town beaches, except where a lifeguard is on duty. Between May 1 and Oct. 1, dogs would have to be leashed between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. They would be allowed to run off-leash on the town's beaches at other times.

An unnoticed -- and rarely enforced -- Southold law currently on the books bans all dogs from town beaches. But increasing complaints of people versus dogs caused officials to re-examine the code last year.

The final vote was scheduled for Aug. 13.

Some residents at Tuesday night's public hearing questioned how the law being drafted would help protect the safety of people using the beaches and sanitary conditions at the beach. Dog feces has been a major concern of opponents of dogs on the beaches.

Dan Catullo, who lives on the beach in Mattituck, noted that East Hampton Town was curbing permissiveness by requiring dogs to be leashed.

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"I want to prevent dangerous intruding animals from coming onto my property," said Catullo, 76, adding he was attacked on the beach in May 2012. "I don't see anything unreasonable about that."

He predicted, "The dogs will come, romp, annoy or threaten when released from the leash."

Cynthia Wells of Southold said the law "sounds quite reasonable."

Except, she said, the law requires leashes to be 4 feet long. Most, she said, are 6 feet.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said the law's language will be changed to say that leashes only have to be extended for 4 feet, allowing those with 6-foot leashes to simply shorten them.

He also added the town would make sure to put up signs. "This has been an ongoing process," he said. "If both sides are a little unhappy, I think that means we've found as good a balance as possible."

Indeed, compared with the crowds of residents who lined up on both sides of the debate at prior town board meetings, the turnout at Tuesday's debate was scant.

Town Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who started looking at the town's dog ordinance last year, said she'd prefer more restrictions on when the dogs could run off-leash, but described the law's language as a compromise.

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"I know it's not the perfect law, but we have to start somewhere," she said. This is the law's third public hearing. "I think people are tired of the hearings."

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