Dog Owners Bark About Park Fees

In Suffolk County dog parks, owners are charged for "big" dogs but not for "small" ones

By Greg Cergol
|  Wednesday, Jun 6, 2012  |  Updated 3:16 PM EDT
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Some dog owners are claiming discrimination over Suffolk County's policy of making owners of large dogs pay to use one park, while little dogs are able to play for free. Greg Cergol reports.

NBC New York

Some dog owners are claiming discrimination over Suffolk County's policy of making owners of large dogs pay to use one park, while little dogs are able to play for free. Greg Cergol reports.

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Dog owners have been hot under the collar about fees at some Long Island dog parks.

On summer weekends, visitors to the "big dog" play area at West Hills must pay a fee of up to $13 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Big dogs are considered those that weigh more than 25 pounds.

However, visitors to the "small dog" park on the other side of West Hills don't pay a fee.

"I wouldn't call it prejudice," said big dog owner Sidney McNeil. "I just think it's stupid."

Some big dog owners, like Lisa LaMorte of Huntington Station, have written county lawmakers, asking for a reduction in the fee. But with Suffolk County facing a huge budget deficit, dog owners seem to be barking up the wrong tree.

"I don't mind paying something," said LaMorte. "But what they are asking is too much."

"I feel sorry for them," said small dog owner Michael Price. "But I am here in the small dog park and very happy about that."

According to Suffolk County officials, canine size doesn't matter at West Hills and is not the reason behind the fees in the "big dog" park.

"The fee charged on the weekends is associated with parking and the amenities offered at the park, which include hiking, picnicking and horseback riding," said county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter. "The fee structure that exists precedes the establishment of the dog park."

"Honestly, do they really think I am going to pay $13 to bring my dog here?" asked dog owner Julie Schrana. "I can arrange a play date in my backyard."

Still, other dog owners lamented scaling back their visits to a park they love.

"This is the best dog park on Long Island," said Laura Lerner, as she held her retriever Maki. "I come here every day and people visit from all over the area."

Baird-Streeter said anyone wishing to bring their dogs to the park will not incur a fee Monday through Friday and prior to 8 a.m. and after 4 p.m. on weekends.

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