WESTBROOK – Dog owners came out to a special town meeting on August 31 voicing their opposition to a proposed dog ordinance.
The most controversial section of the ordinance would have prohibited dogs from leaving the property of its owner, required dogs to wear a dog leash or chain when it leaves the owner’s property, and prohibited dogs from town beaches.
The ordinance also had a provision making it unlawful for any owner to allow a dog to “defecate upon any private property owned by another person, town property, condominium common elements, street, sidewalk, beach, gutter or other public area, including but not limited to parks and school grounds, unless such person shall remove the feces so deposited in a proper manner before leaving the immediate premises.”
Those in violation would be subject to a fine up to $100.
Westbrook Animal Control Officer Tanya Marocco said the ordinance was First Selectman John Raffa’s idea and admitted it would be difficult to enforce a prohibition of dogs on town beaches.
“We had several complaints about dogs defecating on the town beach,” Raffa said.
Several residents agreed that some irresponsible dog owners do not clean up after their dogs but felt prohibiting them from town beaches was extreme.
One resident questioned Raffa’s motives for the ordinance especially the “mischievous animals” portion requiring the town’s animal control officer to investigate and possibly fine a dog owner if there are complaints that a dog is creating a nuisance or has damaged private or public property.
“I am Raffa’s neighbor and Raffa has been anti-dogs,” Stephanie Flynn said, adding she is a dog owner who has a leashed dog but expressed her concern about cats that are running rampant around town.
Flynn suggested if a dog ordinance is enacted there should be a cat ordinance as well.
However, according to Marocco, the proposed dog ordinance would not apply to state-owned water, specifically the high water mark areas of Long Island Sound.
Consequently, Republican Town Chairman Sid Holbrook said dog owners could go in a boat and allow their dog to play in the water and Morocco agreed.
The ordinance, Holbrook said, discriminated against those not living directly on the shoreline or owning a boat.
Dan Coan said he enjoys taking his golden retriever to the town beach in the winter when the beach is deserted and questioned the reasoning behind a year-round ordinance.
At this point, Jeff Kriete proposed an amendment prohibiting dogs on the town beach from May to September and suggested the fine be reduced to $50.
At Hamonassett State Park in Madison, dogs are allowed only on the walking trails during the summer, Kriete said, but dogs are allowed on the beach between October and May.
Moracco said state law requires owners to have their dogs on a leash at all times when at a state park or state beach.
Kriete’s amendment was voted down by residents who opposed all restrictions regarding their dogs.
Some residents questioned the cost of enforcing the ordinance, whether it would lead to hiring additional staff that would work with Morocco to ensure compliance, and how much in legal fees the town has spent drafting the proposed ordinance.
Town Attorney John Webber said an estimate of costs regarding the proposed ordinance should be available in three weeks.