Seaside Heights to ban dogs — even for ’emotional support’ — on beaches, boardwalk
Most dogs are now banned from the beaches and boardwalks in Seaside Heights after officials said owners refused to pick up after their animals.
The anticipated new law will also crack down on the use of "emotional support animals" to evade the law. Only legitimate service animals would be allowed on the beach and boardwalk.
Seaside Heights had been allowed dogs in the off season because there were less people around. But in recent months, Mayor Tony Vaz said it's gotten out of hand.
"It was a good thing that we tried to do that unfortunately turned bad," Vaz said.
"One guy picked up the poop, put it in a bag and threw it in the ocean [and told a municipal worker,] 'What are you going to do to me?' So it's caused not only an unsanitary condition but it's caused a lot of people now saying they're just going to do what they want," Vaz said.
Another shore town, meanwhile, is going a different direction.
Dogs will be welcome this summer in North Wildwood when lifeguards are not on duty.
Mayor Patrick Rosenello told the Cape May Herald that certain people would call the police whenever someone brought a dog to the beach early in the morning or afterhours, which was a drain on resources.
But in Seaside Heights, officials want to answer the complaints.
"Our town people are fed up with not only the beach and boardwalk and the droppings but also on our streets and people not picking it up," Vaz said.
Fines for violating the ordinance, which is expected to be adopted on April 7, would range from $100 to $1,250.
Vaz knows he will incur the wrath of fellow dog lovers who have few options at the shore for their dogs.
"Some of these people that are negligent caused harm to something that was meant to be good. We don't have the manpower, be it police or laborers, to go around and scold people. We just can't do it. We don't have that kind of personnel in the winter," Vaz said.
Trained and certified service dogs are welcome and Vaz warned that the borough will be tough on making sure they are legitimate. Vaz said that service dog owners can be asked by a code officer a limited type of questions about their training and what assistance they provide without getting into private matters
"Anybody today can send out $10 and they get a red covering for their dog and then it's a disability dog. When we have a population this summer of 80,000 people a day, obviously we're going to respect the people who have disabilities that need these dogs," Vaz said. "We get emotional support dogs. That's not what the American Disabilities Act said."
Fines between $100 and $500 can be issued for putting a dog in a guide-dog harness to falsely pass it off as a service dog, according to the ordinance.