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Council members defend Watertown’s dog ban at local farmers market

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Dogs, dogs and more dogs.

The Watertown City Council devoted much of Monday night’s meeting to dogs. Members discussed, debated and defended the city’s dog law and the issue of not getting involved in starting a dog park at Thompson Park.

They made their comments after Dorsey Street resident Scott A. Gates reiterated his view that the city went too far by establishing a dog ban at public events held on city-owned property.

The city passed the ordinance after a 2-year-old boy was mauled by a dog in August 2011 at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce farmers market along Washington Street.

Passed in January of last year, the law prohibits dogs from the farmers market and other public events such as the July 4 celebration at Thompson Park, the Jefferson County Fair, parades and sporting events at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Dogs also are prohibited within 20 feet of city pools and city playground equipment.

Calling the law “a knee-jerk reaction,” Mr. Gates said it passed with little opportunity for the public to comment. He also claimed vendors at the farmers market, held along the city-owned sidewalk and median, were disappointed by the council decision.

Special-education teacher Tammy Angel said she was surprised to hear about the dog ordinance when she moved into the city from Plattsburgh, a community that has a large dog park.

Council members, however, defended the law, saying they want to make sure to protect children from other dog attacks.

Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns, who initiated the ordinance, disagreed that vendors opposed it. She also said it was a dangerous “mix” to have dogs, children and food at the farmers market.

Mr. Gates also criticized the law because it prevents a local woman from establishing a search-and-rescue dog organization because she cannot train the dogs in public in Watertown.

He also brought up his proposal for a dog park in Thompson Park. It would help with “the socialization of dogs,” he said.

Council members, instead, suggested Mr. Gates get more involved in efforts to improve the dog park at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Jefferson County campus on Water Street.

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