To Leash or Not to Leash: That Is the Question

At the City Council meeting October 19, Mayor Doug French updated the public on the recent vote by the Rye Town Park Commission requiring dogs to be leashed at all times. Both the Mayor and Councilman Joe Sack, the City’s two representatives on the six-member Commission, voted against the adoption of the rule, but were…

Published November 3, 2011 4:57 PM
3 min read

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dogsthumbAt the City Council meeting October 19, Mayor Doug French updated the public on the recent vote by the Rye Town Park Commission requiring dogs to be leashed at all times. Both the Mayor and Councilman Joe Sack, the City’s two representatives on the six-member Commission, voted against the adoption of the rule, but were outvoted.

 

By Mitch Silver

 

At the City Council meeting October 19, Mayor Doug French updated the public on the recent vote by the Rye Town Park Commission requiring dogs to be leashed at all times. Both the Mayor and Councilman Joe Sack, the City’s two representatives on the six-member Commission, voted against the adoption of the rule, but were outvoted.

 

dogsinsThe Mayor explained that Rye City’s own Local Law 76 requires dogs be kept on leads at all times except on private property, but that the Park’s policy in the past has been anything but clear-cut. When he joined the RTP overseers, he was handed a paper saying dogs had to be leashed after 9 a.m. The implication was that dogs could run free before that time, a practice many owners have followed. In addition, a pilot program in 2009 allowed dogs on the beach in the winter, though that program is no longer in place.

 

Councilman Sack explained that Rye’s representatives wanted to make the pre-9 a.m. exception part of RTP’s official policy, and that discussions held before the vote suggested the other Commissioners agreed. Then, when the vote was taken, the non-City members voted unanimously against it. “Maybe we should have, forgive the pun, let sleeping dogs lie,” he said.

 

Councilwoman Paula Gamache queried Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson as to whether Rye City law took precedence over Park policy. Wilson replied that, as Rye Town Park was established in 1907 through an act of the State Legislature, the City could not overrule the Park’s policymakers.

 

The Mayor had another idea: just as volleyball players are permitted use of the beach on certain summer evenings, couldn’t dog owners who wished to band together create a “user group” with its own membership and procedures?

 

When the discussion was opened to the public, the stand-off between pro-leash and anti-leash residents continued. Suki van Dijk presented the Council with a petition signed by 107 dog lovers requesting the City re-establish the off-leash exception in the park. David Rasmussen, board member and former president of The Friends of Rye Town Park, read a letter from current President Linda Wells opposing such a move.

 

Nina McGinty of Overlook Place seemed to be speaking for many when she told the Council, “I can’t believe we’re sitting here spending your valuable time talking about whether we can walk our dogs off-leash before 9 o’clock. There are a lot bigger issues that you guys have to deal with.”

 

Mayor French murmured, “You’re exactly right.”

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