WALKING IT BACK: Hoboken Looks to Revise Draconian Dog Restrictions
(ABOVE: hMAG Publisher’s scofflaw dog—who is otherwise a very good boy—walking in a park.)
Earlier this week hMAG reported on dog owners receiving tickets for walking their dogs in Hoboken parks.
The Hoboken Police Department had been receiving complaints for residents who felt compelled to call the cops after seeing dogs on the grass in park areas. The heightened sensitivity to our four-legged residents stems from the rampant issue of dog waste being left in public spaces by irresponsible dog owners.
Hoboken Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante explained that, “We [Hoboken Police] have been getting a lot of calls from residents in the northeast park of Hoboken along the waterfront, complaining about dogs in public spaces.” He adds, “when a call comes in, it’s our duty to respond.”
As a result, a Hoboken Police Officer had been tasked with enforcing Municipal Code 93-22, which states, “No dogs or other animals, leashed or unleashed, are permitted in any public park or playground except for the bringing of said dog directly to and directly from a City dog run, without diversion, in any public park.”
“This is an ordinance that had been approved by the City Council,” said Ferrante, “and our job is to enforce it.”
Predictably, the outcry has been significant:
@RaviBhalla I received a ticket by an undercover cop for my leashed dog being on grass? Central Park has off leash hours and Hoboken is banning dogs from using grass? This doesn’t seem so progressive to me. Not to mention this is where you are putting our resources? #Hoboken pic.twitter.com/hOHgnGgVPW
— LAUREN BOGUSH (@LAURENBOGUSH) April 13, 2019
The law sparked some pretty colorful debates on social media, and for now, it appears that the dogs will be given a reprieve.
“Over the past several days, I’ve heard directly from many passionate dog owners across the City. Based on the feedback, and reviewing the ordinance in question myself, it is abundantly clear that modifications need to be made so dog owners are not unfairly burdened when taking dogs to our parks,” says Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. “I’m asking the Council and the Council sub-committee on Health and Human Services to propose appropriate amendments to the outdated dog ordinance from the mid 1990s that I believe no longer reflects the needs of our growing population. Until revisions are made by the City Council, the City will prioritize other more substantial violations, including dogs off leash and dog owners not picking up after their dogs.”
To that end, Council President Jen Giattino and Councilman Mike DeFusco have announce that they are working together to change Hoboken’s outdated law prohibiting dogs in City-run parks—co-sponsoring a replacement ordinance during tonight’s City Council meeting that will permit dogs into City parks, while penalizing careless owners who don’t clean up after them $2,000.
“For years the vast majority of Hoboken dog owners have acted responsibly when bringing their canine companions into our public parks. Over enforcing this policy will not solve the issues of dog litter, it only alienates dog owners and prevents Hoboken’s furry friends from enjoying open space with us,” said Giattino and DeFusco, in a joint statement released this morning. “As dog owners ourselves, we understand the frustration of Hoboken residents who have been penalized for simply allowing their pets to stretch their legs. This is why we are revising a dated ordinance that makes Hoboken a more pet-friendly community. The new policy will help maintain the beauty and cleanliness in our parks and make sure Hobokenites can enjoy them whether they’re walking through them on two legs or four.”
Moving forward, Councilwoman Emily Jabbour offers residents a suggestion that doesn’t involve calling the Police Department over dogs in a park.
“As a dog owner and mother of two children, I know how important our parks are to our quality of life. We need to make sure that any antiquated ordinance, such as this one, that imposes a hardship on residents is revisited,” says Jabbour. “As chair of the sub-committee on health and human services, I look forward to hearing from residents on this issue. I invite any dog owners or residents to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback.”