ITHACA, N.Y. — A controversial topic has resurfaced — should the City of Ithaca allow dogs on the Ithaca Commons?
Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick polled the community via Facebook and Twitter last week. In a Twitter poll Myrick conducted, 84 percent of 643 respondents said yes. When he posted the same question on his Facebook wall, more than 800 people commented, with strong voices for and against the proposal.
Ithaca – should we allow leashed dogs on the Commons?
— Svante Myrick (@SvanteMyrick) May 18, 2017
People in favor of allowing dogs say dogs are allowed on every other public street in the city, so why not the Ithaca Commons? Many people agreed as long as the dogs are on leash and owners pick up after their dogs.
But, others say allowing dogs would make the Commons less friendly to people who have allergies or a fear of dogs. Some people also pointed out that the new Commons is not a nice space for dogs with little shade and green space.
The city also considered lifting the ban on dogs in March 2015, but it was unanimously voted down by Ithaca Common Council.
As city code stands (Chapter 157 Section 12), no animals are allowed on the Commons except by permit. Service animals and police dogs are an exception. Owners or tenants of premises on the Commons can also apply for a special permit to bring their dogs through the Commons.
In 2015, language was proposed to change the code to allow licensed and leashed dogs on the Commons. The dogs would not be allowed to “engage in unreasonable howling and/or barking,” cause damage to public or private property, and the owner must promptly pick up pet waste. Dogs were also prohibited from chasing, leaping on or harassing anyone, and dogs must also not be leashed to anything like light poles or trees on the Commons.
It’s unclear whether Common Council members would be more friendly to the idea now, though they did recently allow dogs at Stewart Park. According to the minutes from the 2015 vote, council members wanted to revisit the topic after the Commons construction finished.
At least one alderperson is in favor of lifting the decades-old ban. Ducson Nguyen, who represents the 2nd Ward, said it’s time to allow dogs on the Commons like other similar pedestrian malls across the country do.
Nguyen, who emphasized he’s more of a cat person than a dog person, said he thinks allowing dogs on the Commons would make the area more inviting to tourists and locals and encourage more people to come to the Commons. He said if other cities, like Burlington, that allow dogs on their pedestrian malls can manage the waste, then Ithaca can, too. He said the city will likely be looking at ways to mitigate any waste, like adding waste bags and receptacles.
Despite the current ban, dogs are not an uncommon sight on the Commons.
Jamie Williamson, public information officer for the Ithaca Police Department, estimated there is about one ticket issued per month and maybe 10 to 12 issued per year.
Nguyen said it’s either time to “enforce the ban or lift it.”
While some are exploring the idea of lifting the ban, there are currently no specific actions planned. The next City Administration Committee meeting will begin at 6 p.m. June 21 at City Hall.
Do you think dogs should be allowed on the Commons? Let us know.