Every dog has its day, but unbeknownst to dogs that use East Hampton Village beaches, that day is tomorrow. The village board will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. at the Emergency Services Building on a proposed code amendment that would require dogs to be leashed within 500 feet of beach road ends.
Now, dogs and other animals are prohibited from village beaches between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the second Sunday in May through Sept. 30. People taking their dogs to the beach are to “maintain control over said dog at all times and shall take such action as may be necessary to clean up after such animal.” Proposals considered at prior meetings and work sessions included extending the summertime prohibition to a later hour or banning dogs from certain beaches entirely. The proposed amendment adds only that they be on a leash that is no more than six feet long near the road ends.
Dogs on village beaches, in particular what they leave behind and the alleged negligence of their owners, was a topic of much discussion throughout the winter months. To some, the debate is about public health and the ability of humans to safely use and enjoy the beaches. To others, it’s about protecting a cherished pastime that is threatened by a small number of irresponsible dog owners.
The debate has generated an abundance of comment at prior board meetings and in letters to The Star, both for and against new restrictions. The debate has also spawned an advocacy group, Citizens for Responsible Dog Ownership, spearheaded by Steven Gaines, a Wainscott resident. The group, according to its page on Facebook, is “dedicated to teaching dog owners to pick up after their dogs on beaches and keeping them leashed at appropriate times.”
Mr. Gaines, who has voiced opposition to added restrictions before the board, is critical of the proposed amendment. “The main issue isn’t being addressed. This all came to the fore because of complaints about beaches not being kept clean,” he said. A requirement that dogs be leashed to 500 feet from a road end, he said, is “some arbitrary thing to keep them from disturbing people having barbecues. That’s important too, but where did the issue about keeping beaches cleaner go? That doesn’t seem to be addressed at all. The only way to make that happen is public consciousness.”
As he has previously stated, Mr. Gaines likens the cause to that of Citizens for Access Rights, a local organization formed to maintain all forms of access to ocean and bay beaches. He is in favor of a concerted public education campaign to foster group consciousness, a phenomenon he said he witnessed as a resident of New York City in the 1970s, “when people get the same idea together and enforce it themselves.” Considering its size, New York City’s streets “are incredibly clean,” he said. “We can do something without ruining part of the culture here.”