Starting July 1 all dogs on East Hampton Village beaches will have to be kept on leashes while they are within 300 feet of parking lots and road ends.
In a unanimous vote Friday, the East Hampton Village Board approved the controversial change to its existing regulations. Previously, dogs could run at will during the hours that they were allowed on the ocean beaches: before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. during the summer months.
The rule will be in effect through Sept. 30 and thereafter from the second Sunday in May through September. Markers will be placed delineating the points at which dogs can be without a leash.
The measure follows months of debate and often-acrimonious comment from village and town residents regarding dog owners’ rights and from those who have complained about dog waste and aggressive dogs that have allegedly affected public enjoyment of beaches.
Matthew Norklun, a resident of the village, made numerous appearances before the board to complain about dog waste on the beaches and to allege that aggressive dogs had attacked him. Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. also cited complaints made by those whose sunset picnics and other gatherings were interrupted by dogs.
Dozens of residents have promised greater self-enforcement and public-education efforts to maintain waste-free beaches and control over their pets. Representatives of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and a group called beachdogs11937 had pleaded with the board to abandon or delay added restrictions, some asking for time to implement their public-education efforts. Steven Gaines, an author and resident of Wainscott, established an advocacy group called Citizens for Responsible Dog Ownership in response to the village’s proposals.
The board had considered a number of restrictions, including a leash requirement extending to 500 feet from road ends, extending the prohibition of dogs to later in the evening, and banning dogs from certain beaches altogether.
At a hearing on April 19, some residents objected to the proposed 500-foot regulation, citing health problems that made walking such a distance difficult or impossible.
Mayor Rickenbach read a statement at the conclusion of the meeting. “Today your board of trustees took legislative action on an amendment to our code relating to restraining dogs on village beaches. We believe our action strikes a legitimate balance between the safety and interests of beachgoers and dog owners alike who want to enjoy the same beautiful amenities our beachfronts offer,” he said.
“This adoption of this code amendment has been achieved after much thoughtful debate and public discussion for which we are grateful,” the mayor said.