My wife and I recently adopted a dog from a shelter.
We love him, but he can be a bit hyperactive—which we learned the hard way last week when we returned home from work and found our living room turned upside down.
One way to tire him down would be a nice long walk in the park after work. Only, we don’t live in a traditional neighborhood with quiet streets; we live on a busy thoroughfare not suitable for walking. We also work 9-to-5 jobs, and with the sun setting at noon these days, we’ve learned there are no lighted parks in Yorktown where dogs are allowed.
Let me clarify: Dogs are allowed at Yorktown’s parks, but only if they’re wearing diapers.
According to the town code, dog waste is prohibited in all of Yorktown’s public parks and play areas. It doesn’t matter if you clean up your dog’s poop, either. The second your dog’s poop or pee hits the turf, you are in violation of the town code.
In 2015, the previous administration noted that the signs at Jack DeVito Veterans Memorial Field were inconsistent with the existing law. The wording required residents to curb their dogs, implying that owners only need to clean up after them. As far as I know, that field is one of the only lighted parks in town, which makes it so important.
Instead of modifying the code, which would have been a sensible and inexpensive fix to the problem, the administration saw fit to spend taxpayer money and order new signs.
“We need signage that’s consistent with our local law, as it is,” I quoted former Supervisor Michael Grace saying at the time. “It’s not whether or not you clean up after your dog. If it hits the turf, it will be a $250 fine.”
In essence, it was the Town Board’s way of banning dogs without saying they banned dogs.
But, if I’m being a stickler, the town never rectified that problem of ambiguity. The signs ordered in 2015 only create more confusion. They state: “Kids at play; keep poop and pee away,” which says a whole lot of nothing. Away from what, exactly? Also, is this dog waste ban only in effect when kids are playing?
I never understood why the town would purchase such oddly worded signs, which probably makes the ban unenforceable.
Not to mention that our fine officers with the Yorktown Police Department certainly have better things to do than hide in bushes and stake out parks and playgrounds waiting for dog turds to hit the ground.
I reached out to Lt. Tom Gentner, the public information officer for the Yorktown Police Department, who confirmed my suspicion that fines are rarely, if ever, issued for this sort of violation. In fact, Gentner told me, he couldn’t find any record of someone being issued a summons for dog waste.
Though the department does receive complaints from people about dog waste, including at Jack DeVito Veterans Memorial Field, it requires a special amount of persistence on the part of the accuser or the police, which would have to witness the “incident.”
“That witness would then have to give a written statement, and possibly go to court if the person fights it. Then we request a criminal summons from the court to be issued upon the violator,” Gentner said. “It is rare that people will take their involvement to that level. A phone call is one thing, but meeting the legal requirements to take enforcement action is another.”
Essentially, in my opinion, this is a meaningless law that does nothing but create bad blood between neighbors.
It seems I could probably bring my dog to the park without being fined, but I’d like to do so legally and without fear that my neighbor may snitch on me.
Having covered the Town Board for more than a half-decade, I remember very well the arguments made to uphold this law: Pee and poop, even if the latter is picked up, could create filthy conditions. Jack DeVito Veterans Memorial Field, for instance, is often used for youth soccer, concerts, movie nights and more.
To that, I say: What about geese? Or deer? Or raccoons? Or any other wild animal whose waste we are not regulating? Banning dogs will not keep our parks waste-free.
The issue boils down to human decency and is not something our town government can or should be regulating. If your dog poops, pick it up. Be a good person.
I call upon the Town Board to do one of two things: Either remove this meaningless law from the code or provide dogs and their owners with some places to go at night.
Otherwise, you can expect to see me and my diaper-wearing dog at a park near you.