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City Council, opponents debate Watertown dog law

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WATERTOWN — Scott A. Gates admitted Monday night that he purposely tried to be cited for bringing his dog to a public event when he attended the Kite Day celebration at Thompson Park on June 14.

But Mr. Gates said city police threatened to arrest him for trespassing and said they would take his 12-year-old husky-border collie to the pound if he refused to leave the park that day.

The Dorsey Street resident backed down and left, but he attended Monday night’s City Council meeting to reiterate his view that the city went too far by establishing a dog ban at public events held on city-owned property. “Dogs need socialization,” he told council members.

In 2012, council members adopted a local law prohibiting dogs at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce farmers market, the July Fourth concert and fireworks in Thompson Park and the Jefferson County Fair. They passed the legislation after a 2-year-old boy was mauled by a dog in August 2011 at the farmers market on Washington Street.

Six other residents spoke at Monday’s meeting against the law and in support of the city’s creating a dog park at Thompson Park.

Mr. Gates has been a longtime proponent of building a dog park in the city.

Council members defended the city’s dog law and said they don’t want a dog park.

The law also prohibits dogs at parades and sporting events at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Dogs also are prohibited within 20 feet of city pools and city playground equipment.

At Monday’s meeting, City Attorney Robert J. Slye said he was not aware of anyone being cited for violating the dog law since it was adopted. Saying it was not a dog ban, council members called the law justified. They argued that they need to protect all city residents.

“I have a dog,” said Councilman Joseph M. Butler Jr. “I love dogs. Not everything we do is anti-dog.”

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