Presentation before the Suffolk County Legislature
May 13, 2003
Michael Kahn for H-DOG
I traveled 3 hours to be here today, because I felt compelled to speak about Legislator Binder’s bill specifying new requirements for dog parks in the county. Upon reading the bill, my first reaction was that this bill should not be tossed aside lightly. No, this bill should be thrown away with great force!
This bill would be terribly damaging to so many of your constituents. Unlike so much of this legislature’s work, which is designed to improve the quality of our lives and to create value, this bill would simply serve to exclude, diminish, discriminate and take things away.
What is most troubling about this bill is the truly underhanded manner in which it seeks to effectively turn dogs and their owners away from county parks. By imposing requirements which can not possibly be met, it would have the same impact as a bill which just outright bans dog runs from county parkland – however, that wouldn’t look so good on campaign literature.
- This bill requires user groups and transfers to them the obligations of government. There are no such things as “user groups” made up of the 650,000 dog owners who live in Suffolk, any more than there are user groups representing the children who play in the parks, the bicycle riders, picnickers, or people out for a stroll.
- Like all other residents, we just happen to enjoy taking our dogs and other family members to enjoy a nice outing in a park.
- To require groups of dog owners who just happen to go to the same park to form as a legal entity that would have to respond to RFPs and buy insurance is simply ludicrous!
- Why not make parents of children using the parks buy insurance through a user group? Or bicyclists, strollers and all other park users?
- Of course dog owners clean up after their dogs and would self-police against any aggressive behavior. Come to Coindre Hall and you will see a clean park – because we are responsible.
- Don’t place the legitimate role of government, such as insurance, on the backs of dog owners unless you are prepared to do the same to all citizens using county parks. Are you also prepared to ask strollers to mow the grass and bicyclists to pave their bike paths?
And restricting dog runs to exist more than ¼ mile from any water within a park would deny us access to the parks we have been enjoying for decades, such as Coindre Hall. We live on an island for god’s sake – surrounded by water. Why was it okay to install 8 septic tanks at Coindre Hall park last year, less than 200 yards from Huntington Harbor?
This legislation is so blatantly discriminatory, burdensome and onerous, yet attempts to appear inclusive by inserting cat runs into the language. Cat runs!!! There are no such things as cat runs and even a basic understanding of cats and dogs would make one aware of the fundamental differences in their behavior. I love cats just as I love dogs, and can think of few things that would be as terrifying to a cat as to be placed in a large pen with many unfamiliar cats. Take a dog to a dog run with 10, 20 or even 50 unfamiliar dogs and that dog will be playing a game of chase within 30 seconds and have a new best friend. Put a cat in similar circumstances and it will hide under the bed for a week!
Legislation to establish Cat runs would make the Suffolk legislature the source of ridicule. Who among you wants cat runs on your voting record?
All that this ill-intentioned bill and other efforts to curtail the access of Suffolk dog owners to county parks is accomplishing is to awaken a sleeping giant. We are 650,000 strong with many more sympathetic households. You have angered those of us who are finding our enjoyment of the parks we have been going to for decades threatened and ignored by far too many of you. We will not be ignored or marginalized!
I am asking this body to act fairly, rationally and in a manner that upholds the normally high standards applied to your legislative actions.
Recognize this bill for what it is: cynical, underhanded and discriminatory.
This type of legislation might unfortunately be the norm in Washington, but don’t let this body which has accomplished so much to be proud of be dragged into something so wrong-minded.
To legislator Binder I say: This is bad government and we deserve better!