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Residents question reason for Canaan’s dog ban on town beach

  • Richard Fox calls his beagle Linus in for his dinner after a sniff around their yard on Canaan Street Lake in Canaan, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Fox and his wife Karen keep Linus off the beach and out of the water. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Nathalie Wilson, of Nantucket, watches her son, a student at Cardigan Mountain School, in a sailboat race on Canaan Street Lake from the public beach in Canaan, N.H., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. The town has passed an ordinance establishing fines for bringing dogs onto the beach. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2019 6:23:28 PM
Modified: 9/27/2019 2:06:28 PM

CANAAN — It’s time to hang up Fido’s swim trunks.

Town officials recently approved an ordinance that prohibits dogs on the town beach and historical museum property off Canaan Street, including at the boat launch, no matter the time of year.

When the Canaan Police Department posted a copy of the new bylaw on its social media page earlier this week, dozens of people commented, with some saying they have frequented the area for years with their dogs without issue.

Canaan resident Jessica McEwan, who was among the commenters, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that she was shocked to hear about the ordinance and wanted answers about why officials felt it was necessary.

“I’m not sure how in the world this became law, but I highly doubt it reflects the wishes of the townspeople,” McEwan wrote. “Ever since I was old enough, I’ve walked my dogs 2.5 miles to the Canaan Street beach and let them drink at the boat launch and cool their feet.”

Canaan Town Administrator Mike Samson said on Tuesday that putting the ordinance in place has been on his to-do list for about two years, and it came to fruition this summer.

He noted, however, that for the past nine years signs have indicated that no animals are allowed on the beach and that additional signage was added within the past 12 months.

Having the ordinance in place gives the town a mechanism to enforce the ban, Samson said.

The reason for the ordinance is two-fold: Dogs can contribute to a public health issue, specifically unhealthy conditions caused by coliform bacteria, and they can cause a “threatening environment” for residents who are “fearful of dog attacks,” the ordinance states.

Therefore, no dogs are allowed on the beach property, which includes the parking lot of the museum that abuts the beach, and at the boat launch, regardless of whether they are leashed or not, Samson said.

The ordinance doesn’t apply to service animals.

Anyone who violates the ordinance would be liable for a $50 fine for a first offense, $75 for a second offense, and $100 for a third or subsequent offense. The three-member Selectboard adopted the ordinance in August, Samson said, adding that the town held public hearings on the matter.

The ban formally went into effect in early September, Canaan police wrote on its Facebook page.

Over the past two years, Samson said he has received an increasing number of complaints about owners ignoring the signs and bringing their dogs onto the beach or into the water. This summer alone, Samson said, he received 15 to 20 complaints from a half-dozen residents throughout Canaan, not just from people who live nearby.

The ordinance would bar dogs from entering onto the ice this winter, as well, but Samson said he would be open to further conversation about that topic.

The ordinance does not include the meetinghouse across the street.

In nearby Enfield, the town bans dogs from entering onto Shakoma Beach for “public health reasons,” Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth said. There is no civil penalty; the individual is just asked to leave.

The 35-year-old McEwan questioned the main purpose of Canaan’s ordinance.

Bacteria concerns could be related to a host of factors separate from dogs, she said. She also wondered if there was a particular incident involving dog intimidation or fear that town officials haven’t spoken up about.

“It’s really disappointing,” she said of the ban.

Although the majority of residents who commented on the Facebook post expressed disappointment over the ordinance, not everyone in town shares that sentiment.

Richard Fox, who lives next to the beach, said the town’s concerns about bacteria and peace of mind for all residents are valid.

“Some people are uneasy about dogs,” said the 81-year-old Fox, who also first heard of the ordinance on Monday.

“The fact of the matter is it is a health hazard,” he added.

Although the leaves are changing and the temperatures are dipping, Canaan Street Lake remains a beautiful place for swimmers of the two-legged variety.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

Valley News

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