With 2,300 licensed dogs in Clifton Park, questions about where to walk them on and off leash on town property were raised Monday night at a public hearing for residents to respond to a proposed townwide leash law.
The law would designate Kinns Road Park as a leash-free area, along with the Mary Jane Row Dog Park on Vischer Ferry Road, which has been a leash-free zone for several years. The law would require that dogs wear permit tags on their collars while on park property, issued for an annual fee of $30 to their owners.
While no residents objected to the $30 fee, several wondered how the law would apply to vistitors from out of town.
“There’s not enough room in these parks for the whole county,” Amy Friedman of Clifton Park said. “I think the parks should be for Clifton Park residents only to walk dogs, and I also believe all owners should be charged a fee of $30, not just people in leash-free areas,”
Town Attorney Tom McCarthy said Kinns Road Park is owned by Saratoga County, and, therefore, can’t be restricted for use by only Clifton Park residents, with or without dogs.
The current $30 fee required to use the Mary Jane Row Dog Park brings in about $17,000 in revenues that are used to improve the site. Board member Lynda Walowit said revenues from new permits for Kinns Road Park could be used to hire an additional part-time animal control officer to patrol that park.
Other residents frequenting Kinns Road Park asked the board to reconsider allowing dogs to run freely there. The park is larger than the Mary Jane Row Dog Park and is already used by many dog owners to walk their pets without a leash.
“It’s far too nice a place to be a dog park,” said Nick Willey of Clifton Park, who runs and skis in the park. “I get chased by 10 or 15 dogs every day; I think it would be a tragedy to see it overrun by dogs, especially those off leash.”
Kelly McCarthy lives on Friar Tuck Court and her backyard overlooks Kinns Road Park. She said she walks her dogs there, and has seen the number of people using the park rapidly increase in recent years.
“I used to play and sled in there as a child, and now far more people are disrupting the delicate balance between people and dogs,” McCarthy said. “There are people from Colonie, Saratoga and other places. When people hear dogs are allowed off-leash, they flock here. I would love to have everyone use it, but space is running out. I’d like to see a permit fee and extra policing; I’d also like to see permits revoked for repeat offenders with uncontrollable dogs.”
Other residents asked the board to consider adding a requirement that dogs have obedience training before owners can get a permit, which would make it more likely that the dogs could be kept under control, and also limiting to three dogs that one person is allowed to bring off-leash into the parks at one time.
Resident Eric Hamilton, who runs and rides a mountain bike in the park, said while he doesn’t encounter many problems with dogs, he hopes tougher new regulations will prevent problems before they occur.
“I’d say 95 percent of dog-walkers are respectful, but it’s that five percent that are a potential problem,” Hamilton said.
The proposed laws tighten up other policies, including requiring owners to show proof of updated rabies shots and a current dog license when applying for a permit. Owners found breaking leash laws will also face larger fines of up to $250 for a second offense, and $500 for a third violation. Board members said while patrols of the parks will be stepped up, they are also asking residents to police the areas themselves and report any violators. There were no comments from residents about these additional provisions in the town laws.
The Town Board took no action on approving the leash laws Monday night, and McCarthy said changes will be made in the document and posted on the town Web site soon. The board is expected to vote on a final draft next month.
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