Part of dog leash ruling is reversed

For the first time since Jamestown adopted its leash laws in 1982, dogs officially are allowed on the municipal beaches at Park Dock, Head’s Beach and Potter Cove.

The town council at its meeting Tuesday night amended its ordinance, following a 90-minute debate, to strike a provision that says dogs are not permitted on those beaches from May 16 through Sept. 30. Although the ordinance banning dogs from beaches was adopted in November, public outcry did not surface until signs were erected in May when the prohibition was to take effect.

Prior to the ordinance being adopted in November, “no dogs, horses or other animals” were allowed on municipal beaches. That law was never enforced, however, which led dog owners to believe their rights were taken away.

Following the amendment, the sections governing Park Dock, Head’s Beach, and Potter Cove now permits dogs on those beaches from 6-10 a.m., and from 5:30 p.m. until sunset, from May 16 through Sept. 30.

At all other times during that timeframe, dogs are prohibited. From Oct. 1 through May 15, however, dogs are allowed to roam those beaches unleashed. The provision governing Mackerel Cove, where dogs are prohibited from May 16 through Sept. 30, did not change. The amended ordinance, moreover, adds a line about dogs being prohibited “in or on the playground adjacent to the Jamestown library.”

Aside from the relaxed rules at Park Dock, Head’s Beach, and Potter Cove, and the playground prohibition, nothing else was changed. At Conanicut Battery, dogs can roam free year-round, and at Fort Getty, they only can be unleashed from 7-11 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. from Oct. 1 through May 15. Although dogs are allowed at Fort Getty year-round, they must be leashed outside of those hours and dates.

The ordinance, which began to be drafted in March 2020 by Councilman Randy White, was written to update the 40-year-old law that allowed dogs to be unleashed on the sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. That ordinance also prohibited dogs on beaches and required them to be leashed “at all times” while at recreational facilities.

Along with Conanicut Battery, Fort Getty and the beaches, dogs also can be unleashed at Eldred Field from Nov. 15 through March 31. They also are allowed at Eldred Field from April 1 through Nov. 14 if they are leashed.

“This list is intended to be exhaustive,” White said. “It’s intended to be the only places where a dog can be off the leash.”

While the ordinance allows dogs to be off their leashes during specific times at specific sites, the law requires that dogs be under the direct command and control of their owners. That means they must “return upon voice command or when prompted by a remotely controlled electronic signal.” The owner also must maintain a constant awareness of the dog’s location and conduct, and must carry a leash at all times.

Finally, owners must prevent their dogs from interacting with any other person or dog unless that other person “clearly communicates their assent to the interaction.”