New Cumberland continues discussion on allowing dogs in parks

NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. (WHTM) — Discussion continued Wednesday evening on a proposed change to a New Cumberland parks ordinance banning dogs.

A representative for the group Humans for a Dog-Friendly New Cumberland addressed the council. Drew Lawrence, who first challenged the ordinance last month, fielded questions from council members about safety, dog waste cleanup and cost concerns.

Lawrence told council members his group of responsible dog owners would help raise money to install dog waste stations consisting of plastic bags and garbage cans. At one point in the discussion, Lawrence responded to one council member’s question about why dog owners couldn’t carry their own bags.

“The honest fact is that not every dog owner does,” he said, “so we’re trying to make it so that if by happenstance you don’t have a bag, you forgot, there’s still an option to keep the parks clean.”

Lawrence reinforced to the council that “several hundred” people have signed a petition, expressing a willingness to assist in fundraising to pay for dog waste stations to remove the initial burden on taxpayers. The group estimates 15 stations costing roughly $110 each would provide adequate coverage for the borough’s parks.

“I’m not against dogs,” council president Jack Murray said. “I’m mostly concerned about safety.”

Murray expressed further concerns about dogs interrupting baseball and softball games, biting a child, or certain breeds provoking fear in people who currently enjoy the parks without the presence of animals. The borough solicitor explained that legal liability for an incident involving a dog attacking or injuring a person would, in his opinion, belong to the dog owner and not fall on the borough. He said it was possible the borough could be drawn into litigation.

Lawrence said he supported a measure to ensure all dogs are walked on leashes no longer than six feet. He said he had spoken with officials in surrounding communities that allow dogs in parks or have a designated dog parks, and said things were working out well. Lawrence said allowing dogs in parks would be a way to improve the quality of life in the borough. He cited a study depicting millennials who are waiting longer to have children but are dog owners.

Council members were split on support of the ordinance change, with several requesting more time to research. The issue is scheduled for further discussion at the August meeting.

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