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My Two Cents on the Proposed Dog Run

May 21, 2008

Crotonblog: Letters to the Editor, Croton-on-Hudson, New York 10520
To the editor:

As a longtime dog owner, I’d like to add my two cents to the dog-run discussion. Like so many other issues, the proposal to create a dog run is dividing Croton into bitterly opposing groups. Depending on the breed, companion dogs need some degree of exercise in the form of walking or running, but we should not ignore reality. In any other community, Croton’s comparatively small parks would be described as “vest-pocket parks.” No matter where you put a dog run in a Croton park (with the possible exception of Croton Landing), you are sure to have opposition from neighbors and/or those who fish or picnic.

New York City, with its large apartment-dwelling population and ample parkland can afford to give over areas of its parks to dog runs. At Croton’s doorstep is huge Croton Point Park. Technically speaking, it lies within Croton’s boundaries. Instead of creating one more divisive issue within Croton, why not urge Westchester County to create a dog run in the underutilized space on this side of the tollbooth? Some will say, “But that would attract dogs and dog owners from outside of Croton.” The proper response would be, “Isn’t the purpose of a dog run to enable dogs to socialize, and dog owners to meet and discuss common problems?”

In the meantime, an easy and long-overdue solution for Croton would be to change the 1971 law that banned dogs even on leashes in Croton’s parks. In small parks everywhere, dogs can be walked on a leash. Why is this village so out of step with common practice in compelling its dog owners to walk their dogs only on sidewalks and in streets? An example of the ridiculousness of the law is the Duck Pond Park, a tiny sitting park along Bungalow Road through which a sidewalk passes. Allow the leashed dog you are walking to step off that sidewalk onto the grass, and you are violating the law. Heaven help you if you sit down on one of the benches to rest for a moment. I would paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s appeal in Berlin (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) to “Mr. Mayor, tear up this law!”

— Robert Scott

On June 17, 2008 5:56 PM, SSmith said:

i guess i will comment here, even though this string has gotten way off topic.

i went down to Silver Lake (water temp was great) this afternoon with my kids to play on the beach and swim for about an hour and saw three different dogs come down onto the beach and go swimming!!!! i know that most dogs can’t read the three or four signs that very clearly say “No Dogs Allowed in Park” adorned around the entrances to the park & beach area; but the owners who brought them surely can.

perhaps it is this kind of flippant behavior that has given dogs a bad rap with the village!! two of the dogs seemed really bright - maybe their owners can teach them to respect & obey existing ordinances??

On May 27, 2008 1:22 PM, bojangles said:

Stop shaking your head over the recent North County News Blog posts and take a look at the newest vaudeville exchange between “maria” and “jennifer”. This bunch is so phony as not to be believed. That is if one thinks one person posing as three can be called a “bunch”.

Maria, with feigned civility, tried to take on the master, Robert Scott. In her attempt to prove him wrong and exonerate herself, she looked more ridiculous and childish than usual. Poor maria, jennifer, carolyn (maybe even ulysses), she done you dirt! This is a call to arms ladies. War has been declared. So long civility.

On May 26, 2008 5:28 PM, bojangles said:

Anyone wanting a good belly laugh should read the posts on the North County News Blog. Robert Scott is a proven researcher who is able to sift through nonsense and get right to the meat of an issue. Maria, Carolyn G, and Jennifer, with their repeated and tired “intra-clique-conversations”, tackle every issue with the same faulty logic with only partial facts most of the time and none at other times. They are way out of their league in trying to debate with a smart and informed professional like Mr. Scott. With just a few strokes of his pen he exposes their leaky logic and self-serving inaccuracies.

Thank you Mr. Scott. No one else has had the courage to question these women for fear of verbal retribution.

On May 26, 2008 9:33 AM, Tom Moore said:

Here is a suggestion for a temp dog run or park. We always talk about share services and doing things differently. The village board voted to put the skate park in Vassalo park until the neighbors went back to the village board and they changed their minds. The skate park was not well plan and it do not worked. I had suggested to the powers to be to do a temp skate park with the croton rec at different parking lots to see if we really needed a park. That idea didn’t fly and many tax payers dollars later to do and undo a skate park. So here is one man’s thought.

Every time I go to shop rite and look over at the grass parking lot used by Van Cortland manor for their fundraiser parking ” I say what a waste of a good field”.

How about partnering with them to use the lot for a temp dog park to see if the demands is their to do a full time park. I always though the village should talk to them about fixing the field “parking lot” so that the community could use if for extra an AYSO field or real little leaguers like T ball. These organizations use Vasallo now and looks pretty tight on these little village fields. When Van Cortland has their fundraiser I know the Croton Pd is out in force to help with traffic control. How about some thinking outside the box to multi use this field “parking lot”. Keep talking about the many issues facing us and I think we can come up with some good ideas

On May 24, 2008 5:53 PM, TeaDrinker said:

I understand that Robert Scott is still writing articles for The Gazette, only, for some reason, the newspaper can’t find space to publish them. This brings up the whole subject of Croton’s sad excuse for a community newspaper. Instead of news and readable articles, Gary Cahill prefers to overload his anemic newspaper with dull press releases, a selectively-edited police blotter, and endless ads. He’s too lazy to go out and dig up some local news. His notion of adequate community coverage is to attend the twice-monthly Village Board meeting, which he usually sleeps through. That’s about the totality of his treatment of Village affairs. He also gives unlimited space to letters to the editor—orchestrated rants from the same crowd that has monopolized the NCN blog. As editorial cartoons, he runs Richard Pellicci’s childish drawings insulting Democratic public officials. These are just some of the reasons why many of my friends and neighbors and I have canceled our subscriptions to The Gazette. We are tired of paying too much for what little we get. Croton deserves better than this pitiful example of part-time journalism.

On May 24, 2008 1:33 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Diogenes, put out your lamp; we’ve found an honest man. Robert Scott acknowledged that he might have been overly judgmental of the tone of the dog-run controversy. It’s rare for anyone on the Internet to admit to having made a mistake. But he wasn’t wrong in spotting the parallels between the campaign to create a dog run and the unlamented skate park, two facilities of limited usefulness to only a small fraction of Croton’s population, and in pointing out the pitfalls. I’ve been reading Robert Scott’s incisive articles in The Gazette for many years, but he doesn’t seem to be writing them any longer. If he’s reading this, I want him to know that his pieces were greatly appreciated and are sorely missed.

On May 23, 2008 3:56 PM, Benedict said:

I actually conducted informal interviews of the dogs themselves. Most of them are in fact in favor of creating a dog run. Cats on the other hand were opposed.

On May 23, 2008 2:24 PM, TeaDrinker said:

I may have chosen words poorly in characterizing the dog run issue as “bitterly contested,” but much of the comment in the blogs resembles the arguments that preceded the ill-fated skate park, which was vigorously contested. To paraphrase Will Rogers, “All I know is what I read in the papers blogs.” There seems to be little unanimity of opinion about where a dog run could be placed, when it should be operated, or even whether Croton should have a dog run. To me all this giddy enthusiasm is reminiscent of the skate park imbroglio, with pressure groups pulling and tugging at village officials from all directions, promising to be faithful users of the facility. We all know how disastrous and costly that episode of bitter memory turned out to be. The skate park failed for many reasons, but the most significant was the failure to do preliminary marketing research. There are similar issues with a Black Rock dog run—more than meet the eye.

Does anyone talking up a dog run know how many licensed dogs there are in Croton? According to the village office, the number is about 300—a surprisingly small number in a community of 2800 households. How can the village justify providing special recreation facilities for such a small segment of the community? This, by the way, was one of the unheeded objections to the skate park. And how many of these 300 dog owners will use the dog run? Other questions remain unanswered: If the village supports a dog run, will its insurance cover that facility? Will users be charged a usage fee to make the dog run self-supporting instead of a burden on those without dogs? Who will make sure that all participating dogs have valid licenses and that owners have proof that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies?

In the British houses of Parliament there is a practice known as “stating one’s interest” in which speakers reveal their stake in the outcome of any proposed legislation. Let me now state mine: I have no intention of bringing our dog, a working dog, to a Croton dog run, no matter where it is located. A friend who is a dog trainer has cautioned against the practice. “If you want to see the traits of dominance and submission in full antagonistic bloom, dog runs are the place. If your dog tends to be dominant, that trait will be reinforced—in spades. And if your dog tends to be submissive, it will become even more so. Sometimes a submissive or smaller dog will be harassed to the point of becoming neurotic.” The same dog trainer has said: “If your dog needs the companionship and exercise you are not providing, get a second dog.”

A few other points to amplify my original comment: I have never seen a dog owner’s code of responsibility, but if I were writing one, the first tenet would be: “First, do no harm. Do not inflict your dog on other people.” Lobbying for a fenced-off dog run to be located in a multi-use area like Black Rock, even on an experimental basis, could be inflicting dogs on the residents of Quaker Bridge Road, not to mention other users of Black Rock. There’s a serious dichotomy and an element of selfishness in the arguments of those in favor of a dog run at Black Rock. Why is a Black Rock experimental setup that may or may not survive preferable to an occasional walker walking a dog in a Croton park? The latter can be achieved with a stroke of the proverbial legislative pen.

I cannot understand, for example, why those pushing for a dog run at Black Rock are so adamantly against repealing the legislation the prohibits dogs, including leashed dogs, in Croton’s parks. One critic even accuses those advocating the repeal of the 1979 law of “muddying the waters”? Since I have been advocating repeal of the 1979 law for years in my newspaper column, perhaps it is the dog run advocates who are muddying the waters. Don’t they recognize that a dog run cannot be put in any park without rewriting the 1979 law prohibiting dogs in parks? And will nonresidents and their dogs be encouraged to use the dog run as Ossining does? If so, the 1971 law prohibiting nonresidents in parks also will have to be amended. Are we backing into a legal tangle without realizing it? Let’s do something right for a change lest we wind up with another white elephant skate park.

Finally, proponents of a dog run at Black Rock should be careful about touting free-running dogs as way of controlling the Canada goose population there. Once nearly wiped out by indiscriminate hunting, the Canada goose is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and it is illegal to harm or harass the birds while they have eggs in the nest. Certain dog breeds, notably the Border collie, have been trained to scare off Canada geese without harming them. But scaring off these birds is no task for a motley pack of strange dogs, and could have undesirable traumatic consequences if small children witness the injury or death of birds. Canada geese have many admirable qualities. They mate for life and are fierce protectors of their young goslings, which is more than can be said for some humans.

On May 23, 2008 11:52 AM, Ronnie said:

I still don’t understand why the former skate park won’t work. Does anyone know? Right now it’s an eyesore at one of the main entry points to the village. It might be small, but there’s parking, fences, and wood chips. That’s 90 percent of what you need … there aren’t even any neighbors. Many of the things that made this area unpopular as a skate park are actually pluses for a dog park.

It seems that it would take very little investment to use this until Black Rock is done with its landscaping.

On May 22, 2008 11:50 AM, weewill said:

I have thought it better to remain in the background with support of the group of residents lobbying for the right to allow unleashed dogs at Black Rock Park within a defined area, as well as leashed dogs in the village parks. Being a recognized and visible Democrat, I in no way wanted to take a chance on politicizing a community issue, so have kept silent.

I have, however, followed the debate carefully and want to congratulate the board and residents both for and against the proposal. While admittedly it is no surprise that this issue has generated strong feelings from both sides, they have each presented their positions in a calm and non-confrontational manner. The board obviously has listened and is attempting to find a workable and fair resolution. I commend all involved on the manner in which these calm and sensible discussions have been carried on.

It has been said that mediation and negotiations can be defined as successful when both sides of the table leave a little happy and at the same time, a little unhappy. I believe that would be a good outcome in the board’s final difficult decision. Having said that, I can add nothing to the arguments that hasn’t already been said. I do support a well-thought out trial period at Black Rock Park for unleashed dogs and a permanent decision to allow leashed dogs in our parks on leashes.

On May 22, 2008 9:27 AM, dors said:

Love the idea of the waste station. Responsible people will use it but of course, there will always be the slackers taking the free ride. IMHO Black Rock is the perfect location for a dog park. Land, water, parking, geese to chase, and totally underutilized. I queried our mayor and Trustee Konig a number of times why there were insufficient picnic tables at the ‘park’ but never received an answer (gasp, surprise). Seems moot now if the park becomes a reality and it should.

On May 21, 2008 8:10 PM, Ty said:

My name is Ty West, and I’m a member of the dog committee that’s working to establish a shared use of Black Rock park for a year-long trial period.

The posters raise several points that I’d like to address.

I do not think this an issue that is bitterly dividing the village. I can tell you that we have been working on this since September, and in our many dealings with village officials, the vilage board, and even those opposed to our ideas, all involved have treated each other very cordially.

Frankly, we should not have to leave the village where we pay our taxes to find a suitable place to exercise our dogs. Our taxes support over a dozen public parks and open spaces within the village boundaries. We are asking to use, during posted hours, a portion of one park - the one which happens to be the village’s most under-utilized.

I don’t agree that the parks too small for unleashed dogs. In fact, the area we are requesting at Black Rock accounts for only a third of that park, yet it amounts to well over an acre of land. In fact, it is equal to, or larger than, the county’s unleashed dog area at Kingsland Point park in Sleepy Hollow

I understand the concerns about dog waste (I pick up enough of it in front of my house), but quite frankly, the geese in the parks are far bigger polluters.

Believe it or not, the Canadian government actually studied the DNA of the poop in one of their provincial parks several years ago… Geese accounted for three times the level of dogs and horses combined.

Very simply, dogs at Black Rock mean geese won’t be. We’ve also asked for a dog waste bag station to be installed if the plan goes forward, and the county is already monitoring water quality of the river at Black Rock on a regular basis. If there is a waste problem during this trial period, we will know very quickly.

Finally, I agree that Croton Landing would be a wonderful place to run dogs, as it has been for at least a dozen years. Unfortunately, most of Croton Landing will be closed for landscaping for at least two years.

Do you know how long that is in dog years? We need a solution now.

On May 21, 2008 4:38 PM, waffels said:

I think Benedict made the main point here. The village needs to emphasize the seriousness of the pooper-scooper law. People should be fined heavily for not picking up after their dogs in a public place. i would be curious to know the last ticket written to someone for not picking up. judging by the piles I see around town it doesn’t happen. Let the dogs run and enforce the pooper law.

On May 21, 2008 3:41 PM, Benedict said:

I definitely think dogs should be allowed in our parks on a leash so long as owners are responsible enough to pick up after their dogs. Unfortunately I have first hand experience of owners walking their dogs in front of my house and not scooping the poop. Since this is on the grass part of my sidewalk it doesn’t really bother me that much but if it were to happen in a park it would seriously limit the fun you could have playing ball with your kids if you are always worried about what you may step or roll in. I think that most dog owners do clean up after their dogs but it only takes a few bad apples to spoil it for everyone. Aside from that one issue I am all for having leashed dogs in our parks!!



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