Until now, dog owners were allowed to bring their pets to village beaches, without leashes, except between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., from the second Sunday in May until September 30, and while it has been up to the dog owner to clean up after his or her pet, the new law requires owners to go a step further and ensure their dogs don't disturb others picnicking or sunbathing. Those who violate the new law could face a $250 fine.
The prospect of further restrictions brought much debate in recent months among dog owners, Village Board members, and those who are frustrated with dog waste and misbehavior on beaches.
Last month, the board proposed a law requiring that dogs be kept on leashes within 500 feet of any road end. Those opposed to the new regulation came out in force to voice their opinion, saying that owners could effectively "self-police," that the distance would pose a hardship for people with disabilities and that there was little point in adopting new rules when existing ones could be more strictly enforced.
In response, the board altered the requirement to 300 feet to accommodate people with disabilities.
Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said last Friday that the new law is a compromise.
"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 was done under the umbrella of partnership."
Dog owners will still be allowed to bring unleashed dogs to the beaches during the off-season.
East Hampton resident, and Press columnist, Steven Gaines spoke up at last month's Village Board meeting to express how important it is to be able to take dogs to the beach. Even though his dog Shep will now have to walk 300 feet down to the beach on a leash, Mr. Gaines said the new law is fair but doesn't think it addresses the issues that were brought up in the first place.
"Most of us spoke to the litter problem, but suddenly there was a leash law, which really is nothing to do with it," he said.
The reason for the leash law, according to Village Administrator Larry Cantwell, is to keep dogs under control in areas where most people are located at the beach. That, in turn, should help cut down on the amount of waste they leave behind. Red markers with lettering will be placed at each beach indicating where the 300 feet end, Mr. Cantwell said.
Sara Davidson, the executive director of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, said this week that she is concerned whether dog owners will actually clean up after their furry friends and has doubts about the enforcement and practicality of the law.
"I hope the public is respectful of the beaches this summer and the residents and visitors will really work hard to pick up and be polite with their dogs because I would really hate for our community to lose this very cherished pastime," she said.