Clifton Park’s leash laws were tightened up by the Town Board Monday night when board members passed new measures designating two town-owned parks as the only public places where any of the 2,300 licensed dogs in town can run freely.
As of Oct. 30, dogs will be allowed off leash, with a permit, in the Kinns Road Park as well as the Mary Jane Row Dog Park on Vischer Ferry Road. In all other areas of town, owners will be required to leash their dogs at all times. Permits to use the parks will be available soon at Town Hall at a cost of $30 to dog owners, who must display the accompanying tag on the dog’s collar while in both parks.
Several residents stayed until the end of a three-hour town meeting to voice last-minute thoughts on the leash laws, which have been under board and public scrutiny for several months. Among the most pressing questions were whether owners walking their dogs on a leash in the Kinns Road Park will be required to purchase a permit, and if owners need to buy a permit for each dog they walk.
Board members said only residents walking their dogs without a leash will be required to register for a permit, and owners may register all their dogs for one $30 fee.
Most residents at the meeting supported the board’s efforts to make town leash laws more comprehensive and clear. Jane Farrell, a dog owner who has frequented Kinns Road Park, said she hopes the new laws will bring a measure of security to everyone using the park, whether they have their dogs on or off-leash.
“Right now in Kinns Park, people are on edge, and I’d like to see the camaraderie re-established when people have peace of mind and know their rights and the rules,” Farrell said.
Farrell also said she wants to see the money collected for the permits funneled back into efforts to make sure the new leash laws are upheld.
“I want the extra money to be clearly used for enforcement in the park and for cleanup efforts; otherwise I’d feel like I was being double-taxed,” Farrell said. “I know this has been a very controversial topic and I appreciate the board listening to everyone’s opinions.”
The $30 permit fee required for years to use the Mary Jane Row Dog Park brings in about $17,000, which is then used for improvements at that site. Board members have discussed using any additional money collected to hire a part-time animal control officer to patrol Kinns Road Park.
Monday night’s decision came after months of discussions between board members, dog owners wanting the option to walk their pets off- and on-leash, and people wishing to use town land without being approached by dogs.
Board members said while there haven’t been serious incidents with dogs off-leash, there have been complaints by residents, many of whom turned up at the series of public meetings held over the summer while they considered changes to the policies.
In return for designating Kinns Road Park as an official leash-free zone, the board is tightening laws in all other parts of town, mandating dogs remain on leash at all times in neighborhood parks, playgrounds and other public places. While the former town law required that dogs remain “under the immediate supervision and control” of their owners, the new law goes further, stating that dogs must be “under direct leash control.”
Dogs engaged in police or search and rescue work are excluded from the leash laws.
Board members said the new rules eliminates any confusion people might have had about walking their dogs in any part of town.
“The language in the previous laws was somewhat subjective, and we’ve had problems enforcing them,” Town Board member Tom Paolucci said. “This makes it clear for everyone that there will be heightened enforcement, and the permit structure will allow us to know who’s using the parks.”
Betty Ayres told the Town Board she is glad to see leash laws clarified on a townwide basis.
“Being able to walk my dogs off-leash in Kinns Park affects my quality of life for the better,” Ayres said. “I’ll gladly pay the permit fee in exchange for that privilege.”
While the leash law goes into effect next month, board members said they will review the regulations again after a six-month trial period.