It was an otherwise quiet spring day, and a resident dog owner and lover, morning cup of java from Mary’s Marvelous in hand, was standing near the water’s edge at the ocean at Georgica enjoying the quiet and taking in the view. Then, out of nowhere, a small purebred dragging a leash appeared at his side, barking angrily as if the dark shadow itself were at hand. After what seemed like and an inordinate length of time, a woman called the dog over, and without so much as a wave of apology, they walked away. So much for serenity.
East Hampton Village officials, considering incidents along the lines of the foregoing and the piles of droppings some irresponsible handlers allow their dogs to leave behind, have been mulling tighter restrictions, among them a rule that would require the animals to be kept on leashes until they were at least 500 feet from a road end or parking lot. Unfortunately, a 500-foot rule, or even a 200-foot variation thereof, is essentially unworkable in one obvious aspect: Many dogs when let off their leashes immediately begin joyful sprints up and down the beach. Without a doubt, some will race back into the restricted area in their exuberance.
Self-policing, while nice to fantasize about, does not work in the end; dogs — and some of their masters — do not always follow the rules. Though there would be yowls and howls of protest, we can envision the day that seasonal, 24-hour bans on dogs at the most-popular bathing beaches, defined as beaches with lifeguards, are implemented. It seems inevitable, and not too far away.
As with so many other things, if potential public nuisances such as dogs and bonfires are allowed on the beach, it falls to local government to make sure some beachgoers’ fun does not impinge on the rights of others — including, if need be, sending village or town employees on the taxpayers’ dime out to pick up the messes themselves.