Dog on the Move

No canines in public parks? How the Nice Canine Battle divided this N.J. city.


Carolyn Brink is a law-abiding citizen. The identical can’t be stated for her beloved Beckett.

It was 7 o’clock Monday morning, and Brink did her greatest to restrain the 40-pound goldendoodle named after the Irish writer Samuel Beckett.

However a contemporary pile of deer poop beckoned just a few steps away.

“It’s like caviar to them,” Brink stated.

The longtime Fanwood resident managed to drag Beckett again from the abyss — La Grande Park — the place canines are strictly prohibited. On this Union County municipality, canines and public parks are a hot-button concern stirring up heated debated in borough corridor and pitting neighbor towards neighbor.

There are many quirky legal guidelines on the books in cities all through New Jersey. In Haddon Township, Statute 175-12 says it’s unlawful to bother somebody of the other intercourse. Hoboken prohibits residents from working legalized “video games of probability” resembling bingo on Sundays earlier than 1 p.m. And in Blairstown, Statute 171-2 says shade bushes could also be planted alongside streets and highways, however provided that they don’t “obscure mild and air.”

In Fanwood, they prohibit canines.

Not all through your entire borough, thoughts you, however simply within the very locations canine house owners would most probably take their canine companions: its three public parks (LaGrande Park, Forest Street Park and Carriage Home Park). Violators “could draw a summons or superb,” the borough’s official web site says.

Brink is amongst a gaggle of Fanwood residents hoping for an modification to ordinance 118-23B, which reads: “No canine, besides a information canine accompanying a blind or in any other case disabled individual, is permitted in any public park of the Borough of Fanwood, no matter whether or not such canine is managed by a leash.”

As you’ll be able to think about, the ordinance — adopted in June 2001 — has drawn widespread debate throughout the square-mile bed room neighborhood in current months. The big majority of municipalities in New Jersey are dog-friendly, not solely permitting canines in public parks, however offering canine runs and different infrastructure.

However not Fanwood.

Brink rallied opposition to the ordinance on Fb by creating the Fanwood Canine House owners Group, the place residents routinely share complaints concerning the canine prohibition. And she or he lately offered the signatures of 780 residents who need the legislation revoked at a council assembly.

“We have now been barking up the tree at borough corridor to attempt to get the legislation adjustments, however they’re nonetheless not transferring on this,” Brink stated.

For years, officers let sleeping canines lie — supplied they had been exterior public parks. Then got here the pandemic.

“There was a prohibition of canines within the parks in Fanwood for many years and, to be sincere, no person had a problem,” Mayor Colleen Mahr instructed NJ Advance Media. “The COVID pandemic comes and everyone, it appears, purchased a canine. And now individuals who by no means had canines begin to notice they will’t go into the park.”

Some officers have determined it’s time for change.

An modification to the 21-year-old legislation prohibiting canines from Fanwood parks is predicted to be launched June 20 by the all-Democratic physique. If the formal introduction receives the required 4 votes, the modification would transfer to a public listening to July 18 and be put up for a vote.

However opposition stays, together with amongst some borough officers.

“There are legitimately two sides of a dialog with this concern,” Mahr stated. “These are well-used parks. Not everyone is a canine lover. And there are individuals who wish to stroll via a park with their canines. Canine are an extension of individuals’s households.

“It’s a really passionate concern.”

Simply ask Larry Cohen.

In February, the longtime Fanwood resident — and proprietor of Shea, a Yorkshire terrier-Bichon Frise combine, and Ty, a mutt — emailed the borough’s lawmakers following a contentious assembly during which some council members pushed again on altering the legislation.

Cohen heard one council member specific a reluctance to behave as a result of the La Grande Park pathways weren’t giant sufficient to accommodate dad and mom with a stroller and an individual strolling their canine. So what did he do? He measured the sidewalks all through city and instructed the board the park’s pathways are almost twice as vast as a typical sidewalk.

“In a associated level, it was additionally talked about that there have been loads of sidewalks on which individuals might stroll their canines,” he wrote in his letter. “In truth, of the 110 streets on the town, 65 of them, or nearly 60%, haven’t any sidewalks.”

However Cohen wasn’t performed.

He additionally studied the legal guidelines pertaining to canines in Union County’s different 20 cities to gauge simply how distinctive Fanwood’s restriction is for its almost 8,000 residents.

“There are two different cities that don’t enable canines of their parks,” Cohen stated. “Linden doesn’t enable canines of their common parks, however they’ve two devoted canine parks. The one different city that doesn’t enable canines of their parks is Roselle Park, however their parks are pocket parks and dominated by playgrounds.”

Canine house owners Larry Cohen, left, and Carolyn Brink are calling on Fanwood officers to take down the signal — and revoke the ordinance — that prohibits canines from La Grande Park.

However not everyone seems to be on Staff Canine.

Karen Schwaneberg, whose residence borders La Grande Park, is adamant that Fanwood maintains the established order.

She is virtually the self-appointed enforcer of the borough’s canine prohibition. She has referred to as the police greater than 20 occasions over the previous 14 months, making formal complaints every time she sees a canine violate the edge of La Grande Park, based on paperwork obtained by NJ Advance Media.

“It’s not a matter of opinion,” Schwaneberg stated. “There’s an ordinance. The ordinance has been standing in our park for years. The ordinance states: ‘Canine are prohibited.’ There are not any stipulations with that. It doesn’t say on leash, off leash, components of the park, or occasions of day that the canines can or can’t be there.

“It says, ‘Canine are prohibited.’ That being the case, so far as I’m involved, meaning the ordinance ought to be abided by.”

However she doesn’t merely need her neighbors to observe the legislation. She desires the commensurate fines posted for all to see — particularly potential violators and their two-legged house owners.

“How do you implement an ordinance in the event you don’t point out what the ramifications are if the ordinance is damaged?” Schwaneberg stated. “There’s no penalties. That’s why they ignore it. The police, their palms are tied for a similar motive.”

There are not any information displaying fines for any canine house owners who had been cited. In truth, a evaluation of the citations signifies the calls are logged as “nuisance” complaints.

“That proper there upsets me as a result of my canine is way from a nuisance,” Brink stated, tongue firmly in cheek. “Perhaps he’s annoying when he desires a second deal with, however my canine is so beautiful.”

So the battle rages on.

The difficulty was debated at a current recreation fee assembly, a borough spokesperson stated. The 11-person committee serves as an advisory panel to the Fanwood council.

“The Rec Fee did vote 6-5 to maintain the present guidelines towards permitting canines in our parks,” stated Tom Kranz, the Fanwood info officer. “Since that vote, there’s been phrase of mouth that some who voted to permit canines have modified their minds, however there’s been no extra vote. In order that’s actually rumour.”

Makes an attempt to acquire a draft of the ordinance anticipated to be launched on the June 20 assembly had been unsuccessful. Kranz stated any adjustments to the ordinance would probably include an inventory of circumstances, resembling all canines have to be licensed, saved on leashes not than six ft and their house owners adhere to the present legislation requiring them clear up after their pets.

Dog walker

Carolyn Brink walks her goldendoodle, Beckett, alongside La Grande Park in Fanwood, the place canines are prohibited.

Any change allowing canines within the park could be cheered by Brink, who requested for the ordinance to easily state: “All leashed canines allowed in all Fanwood parks always” throughout the latest council assembly.

“Simply take down the rattling signal,” she stated.

Schwaneberg sees nothing however anarchy if that occurs.

She warned that the circumstances of her neighboring park “could very properly go downhill” if canines are permitted.

“I’ve no say in any of this,” Schwaneberg stated. “The city’s going to do what the city’s going to do. In the event that they’re going to permit canines to defecate and urinate within the park, if the canines are going to be permitted to roam free within the park, digging up the bottom, and God is aware of what else they’ll do, I feel it’s an actual concern.”

Mahr, the Democratic mayor who was sworn into her fifth time period in 2020, has heard either side of the argument.

“One of many duties of being the mayor is you cope with hyper-local points,” she stated. “With this concern, there have been advocates passionately preventing for it, and there have additionally been these objectors who wish to maintain the established order.

“And so the objective of the council has been to only be actually good listeners and to have a look at different communities, however initially, our position is to essentially take heed to our neighborhood, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Then possibly all of the barking will cease.

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Keith Sargeant could also be reached at ksargeant@njadvancemedia.com.



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