• City of Hoboken Responds to Dog Owners Ticketed for Being on the Grass

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    Hoboken residents don’t like when people mess with their kids…or dogs. And if last week’s ticketing situation had anything to do with it, the public outcry definitely stirred up some passionate dog owners and lovers. We have some updates, responses from the city, and more. Read below:

    dog gate hoboken

    Update as of 4/17 on dog-gate about the ordinance not allowing dogs on City park grass:

    A Statement from Mayor Bhalla:

    “Over the past several days, I’ve heard directly from many passionate dog owners across the City. Based on the feedback, and reviewing the ordinance in question myself, it is abundantly clear that modifications need to be made so dog owners are not unfairly burdened when taking dogs to our parks. I’m asking the Council and the Council sub-committee on Health and Human Services to propose appropriate amendments to the outdated dog ordinance from the mid 1990s that I believe no longer reflects the needs of our growing population. Until revisions are made by the City Council, the City will prioritize other more substantial violations, including dogs off leash and dog owners not picking up after their dogs.”

    Councilman DeFusco and Council President Giattino released the following joint statement:

    “For years the vast majority of Hoboken dog owners have acted responsibly when bringing their canine companions into our public parks. Over enforcing this policy will not solve the issues of dog litter, it only alienates dog owners and prevents Hoboken’s furry friends from enjoying open space with us. As dog owners ourselves, we understand the frustration of Hoboken residents who have been penalized for simply allowing their pets to stretch their legs. This is why we are revising a dated ordinance that makes Hoboken a more pet-friendly community. The new policy will help maintain the beauty and cleanliness in our parks and make sure Hobokenites can enjoy them whether they’re walking through them on two legs or four.”

    Councilwoman Emily Jabbour also released a statement:

    “As a dog owner and mother of two children, I know how important our parks are to our quality of life. We need to make sure that any antiquated ordinance, such as this one, that imposes a hardship on residents is revisited. As chair of the sub-committee on health and human services, I look forward to hearing from residents on this issue. I invite any dog owners or residents to email me at hobokenemily@gmail.com with any feedback.”

    So it’s looking good, grass-loving dogs.

    The Backstory

    In an effort to reduce the amount of pet waste in Hoboken, the City recently passed a new dog poop ordinance that carries fines as large as $2,000. HobokenGirl first reported on the ordinance back in March, but with tickets fining owners for their dogs being on the grass, members of the community began voicing their concerns.

    Reports of plainclothes police officers going undercover in the Mile Square with intentions of fining pet owners who do not leash their dogs, pick up their poop, or dispose of it properly surfaced last Friday. While many {including us!} are very appreciative of these ordinances and follow-through — as the poop was out of control and dogs should definitely be leashed for a multitude of reasons, Hoboken residents have now been reporting that they are being ticketed for merely having their dogs on the grass on a leash.

    The original ordinance, a picture of which is included below, states that all dogs should be leashed as per 93-20, poop should be picked up from sidewalks, streets, and parks as per 93-16, poop should be disposed of properly in your trash can or one of Hoboken’s 300+ public cans as per 136-2, and all dogs in Hoboken should be licensed by law as per 93-2. {For more information on how to license your dog, visit http://hobokennj.gov/petlicense — read the full list of pet ordinances here.} There is also an ordinance 93-22 that states dogs are not allowed in City parks unless going to the dog run.

    But nowhere in the ordinance does it mandate that dogs are not allowed in or on grass areas. You can imagine the confusion when plainclothes officers started handing out citations to pet owners who took their dogs on grass this past Friday, April 12th.

    “Many residents and some of my clients have raised issues with the recent ordinances with the City’s most recent push to keep dogs off grass,” explains Kimberly Bueno, a Hoboken resident who runs the Facebook group Hoboken Dog Lovers and owner of pet business The Cuddly Cottage. Bueno emailed Hoboken Girl about the ordinance backlash. “I’ve heard accounts of many local residents that have received tickets for bringing their dogs to the grass for relief, from officers that came out of the blue.”

    While the City of Hoboken has shared numerous updates about the new ordinances that were to be followed, they did not list anything specific about grass. “Although officers have been informing residents of the ordinances and also handing a paper slip listing ordinances 93-20, 93-16, 136-2, and 93-2, it does not clearly state that dogs are not allowed on the grass,” Bueno adds.

    Bueno also said that she had been stopped by the same undercover officer within a 24-hour period. While she did not receive a ticket {because her dog was not on grass}, she was still stopped twice.

    Chief Ferrante spoke with Hoboken Girl to shed light on the situation.

    “As mandated by the State of NJ and Attorney General, we must have at least one officer dedicated to acting as an animal cruelty officer. We have one officer out of 166 police officers that works on animal cruelty and with the health department on these concerns. Officer Munoz, the officer trained in animal cruelty — who also works in conjunction with the health department as he is also trained in that area— has been giving warnings to residents for the last few weeks about the dog ordinances.”

    He explains further, regarding Maxwell Park’s focus: “There was an outcry from residents in Maxwell Park about dogs there, so we decided to send Officer Munoz to give warnings to residents before giving summonses.” These warnings, Chief Ferrante shared, included at least 200 to dog owners around Maxwell Park in the last three weeks.

    He also stated that there were only 12 summonses given on Friday — two from Officer Munoz, and 10 from city inspectors that were working in conjunction with the PD. Regarding the grass versus pavement versus  “We don’t make legislation as the police department. We just enforce the law.”

     

    hoboken dogs staring at grass

    {Hoboken dogs staring at grass longingly. Photo credit: @JamieDav}

    Still, dog owners are reporting that police officers in plainclothes are giving warnings at parks including Church Square Park and Maxwell Place just for being on the grass, which is not stated in any official ordinance. One resident reported her husband received two warnings in the last few days for being in Church Square Park with his dog, but not going into the dog run.

    Hoboken Girl also reached out to Director of Environmental Services, Jennifer Gonzalez.

    “The reason that we’ve done the undercover work was for the defecation problem in Hoboken, but a lot of other ordinances are not being followed. That said, I do think the ordinance could be clearer, and yes our signage could be better,” she explained, noting that inspectors only gave out a total of 10 tickets after two weeks educating the public and giving warnings to dog owners. “We’ve already designed signs for Southwest, Elysian, and Maxwell, but will be redesigning so that they’re clearer.”

    “City parks are off limits for dogs that are not headed to the dog run. The intention of the ordinance was meant to have dog owners stay off the grass as dog urine does damage the grass,” she explained. So technically, if you’re on a City park and not headed to the dog park, this can be enforced.

    There is hope, though, for grass-loving pups and owners, as Gonzalez noted the county does not have the same regulations. “In Columbus Park, they do allow dogs on the grass.” She also noted that several council members have expressed an interest in updating the ordinance to be clearer and allow dogs on the grass in more areas.

    But it appears that the ordinance may be updated, as many council members and city staffers agree that it appears to be an antiquated law.

    Update as of this afternoon 4/13 at 2:00PM:

    The City shared with Hoboken Girl that it will focus their efforts on other infractions. “While City ordinance states that dogs are not allowed on grass in City parks, the City, Department of Environmental Services, and the Hoboken PD will instead focus on more substantial violations such as the dog owners not picking up after their dogs and dogs off the leash.”

    “I firmly disagree with dogs not being allowed on grass for the following reasons,” Bueno of The Cuddly Cottage says. “Dogs that are seniors or have health issues cannot safely use the dog runs; dogs that may be unfriendly or aggressive are being forced to enter dog parks, which could lead to more incidents in the future; if dogs are not allowed on the grass, it encourages more poop on the sidewalks, but also important to note that not all dogs are trained to relieve themselves on the street.”

    Bueno says she went on to raise her concerns with Caroline Caufield, Chief of Hoboken’s Office of Constituent Affairs. But Bueno is hardly the only pet owner who has been stopped. Several have even been ticketed.

    ^Reader shared ticket from Friday for their dog being on the grass 93-22 {assuming officer meant to write 93-20, or 93-2 ordinance, both which do not state that dogs cannot be on the grass. If it was 93-22, which states that dogs cannot be on public park grass, it was not stated in the new ordinances shared via the city to the public.}

    “Today we received a ticket for our dog being on the grass at Maxwell Park,” another resident wrote in to our team on Instagram. “City code 93-22. We watched him ticket 4 or 5 other people while we were standing there.”

    “We were down there this morning and witness three people get tickets,” @jamiedav writes in a message. “One owner was walking the dog on their leash around the perimeter of the grass. This is getting out of control!”

    dogs dog run

    {Photo credit: @JamieDav}

    “Yes, apparently no dogs are allowed on any grass in any park in Hoboken. My dog was on the grass leashed,” writes another reader, Lauren. “The ticket reads, ‘dog was on grass.’ I totally appreciate the pick-up-after-your-dog and leash-your-dog rules, but staying off the grass just seems a bit excessive.”

    “I got a ticket too,” writes @abkballet. “I’m all for enforcing people to clean up their dog’s {poop emoji} but I’m a responsible dog owner and my dog was just walking on the grass. This is ridiculous!”

    There’s a Change.org petition circulating around Mile Square, citing the barring of dogs on grass as an “impractical and cruel act.” You can view or sign the petition here.

    On Twitter, Chief Ferrante responded to a resident with concerns about the situation of dogs being ticketed on the grass:

    hoboken dog poop ordinance

    The City of Hoboken released a statement to Hoboken Girl regarding the issue, noting that they’ll be focusing their efforts more on dog cleanup and off-leash behavior. “While city ordinance states that dogs are not allowed on grass in City parks, the City will instead focus on more substantial violations such as the dog owners not picking up after their dogs and dogs off leash.”

    hoboken dog poop ordinance

    ^Mayor Bhalla’s tweet this afternoon on April 13th, noting that the City will be focusing on more serious violations such as dog owners not picking up and dogs being off leash.

    Many pet owners are looking for an out… and rightfully so. There is no mention of banning dogs from grass on the City of Hoboken’s website.

    While we don’t have the exact intel yet, rest assured Hoboken Girl is looking into it as residents who like poop-free streets and parks and dog owners and lovers. If we get any further scoop on the poop, you’ll be the first to know.

    When the pet waste initiative was launched back on March 29, Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla said in a statement, “We’re committed to improving the quality of life for our residents, and that starts with keeping our streets and sidewalks clear of dog waste. I thank everyone that has provided feedback to City Hall about dog waste, and encourage residents to assist our enforcement officers by reporting any locations of regularly observed violations.”

    As of April 16, however, Mayor Bhalla has stated that the ordinance itself could use “modifications.”

    “Over the past several days, I’ve heard directly from many passionate dog owners across the City.  Based on the feedback, and reviewing the ordinance in question myself, it is abundantly clear that modifications need to be made so dog owners are not unfairly burdened when taking dogs to our parks,” Mayor Bhalla said.

    “I’m asking the Council and the Council sub-committee on Health and Human Services to propose appropriate amendments to the outdated dog ordinance from the mid-1990s that I believe no longer reflects the needs of our growing population.  Until revisions are made by the City Council, the City will prioritize other more substantial violations, including dogs off leash and dog owners not picking up after their dogs.”

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    Written by:

    Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer who specializes in sustainability and health and wellness content. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton.


    2 comments

    • Most households have at least one pet and dogs outpace cats. If you have a dog, the dog is a family member. It’s cruel not to let them on the grass. In NYC, there dogs can walk on the grass and before and after certain hours the dogs in the larger parks like Central and Riverside Parks are allowed off leash. I think on Pier A and Elysian which are more boxed in, we should allow dogs off leash after 8:00 PM and before 8:00 AM. I would also include the Columbus which is large enough although that is a county park so it’s not up to the city.

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