Hoboken is a dog-friendly town. Just ask the carefree pups chasing ragged tennis balls around any of the four dog parks in the mile square.
But uninformed dog owners can cause havoc at the canine corrals. At best, they can find themselves and their pets in awkward social situations; at worst, they can be a danger to others.
The outdoor dog runs are: Church Square Park, Fourth and Fifth streets between Garden Street and Willow Avenue (separate run for small dogs only); Columbus Park, Ninth and 10th streets between Clinton and Adams streets (Hudson County park which allows leashed dogs on the grass); Elysian Park, 10th and 11th streets at Hudson Street; and Stevens Park, Fourth and Fifth streets at Hudson Street.
Dog owners who don’t pick up after their pet are fined at a maximum $2,000.
Dogs are allowed on the waterfront walkway, but are not permitted in most gathering areas.
Although there is a local dog association in Hoboken, it has lost many members in recent years and is being held together by only a few dedicated dog owners.
“It kind of on life support,” said Jen Cunningham, Hoboken Dog Association head by default. Cunningham’s husband Peter is the City Councilman for the 5th Ward.
Cunningham said volunteers are needed to keep the organization going. Interested parties should visit HobokenDogs.org.
The HDA offers tips and deals for dog owners. Roughly 10 years ago, the HDA surveyed local urban areas for a set of rules for the parks. They came up with 11 rules to guide dog owners. These rules were previously posted at parks, but have since been taken down.
Rule No. 1: Carry a leash. This backed by a similar law, and most parties agree it is in everyone’s best interest to have dogs leashed.
Rule No. 2: Carry pick-up bags. Leaving dog waste around the dog park or the city is the best way for dog owners to make enemies.
Howie Turoff, a regular at Elysian Park and member of HDA, said he pays it forward by picking up stray dumpings, just in case he’s there after dark and loses track of his dog.
Rule No. 3: Enjoy the pleasantries of dog run conversations, but keep a watchful eye on your dog. Turoff has another trick that he recommends to dog park visitors: If your dog gets into a scuffle with another dog, it is best to restrain the other dog and not your own, he said. Your dog will feel ganged up on by its owner if you don’t, Turoff said.
Rule No. 4: Pick up and dispose of dog waste promptly. The city recommends that dog owners tie-off the waste bags to minimize odor and spread of disease. Also, using other people’s trash cans is illegal.
Rule No. 5: If you see someone not picking up after their dog, politely remind them to do so. The key is “politely.” There is no need to berate another dog owner on the street, but you can also call the Health Department to report the person if it becomes a habit.
Rule No. 6: Do not leave dogs unattended. Even attended dogs can be trouble. Turoff said he heard about an incident recently in which a dog owner was bitten by another person’s dog.
“[The victim] asked, ‘Does your dog have its shots?’ But [the dog’s owner] just left,” he said. In 10 years of visiting various dog parks in town, Turoff said this was the only accident he heard of.
Which leads to Rule No. 7: No aggressive dogs in the dog run.
Bark at the moon
No. 8: Control excessive noise. Neighbors appreciate this rule. Some dogs are louder than they seem.
No. 9: Prevent digging and destructive behavior. The city recently spent time resurfacing the dog parks, a major expense in keeping up the four runs. And if dog owners want more space in town, they have to take care of what they have.
No. 10: Dispose of litter and cigarette butts in trash cans. Turoff added that owners should eat outside of the gated runs, and be very careful not to feed other people’s dogs. Dietary concerns and food allergies aren’t just for humans.
No. 11: Obey the law. A no-brainer.
Turoff adds one of his own. “Don’t wear your business clothes to the dog run,” unless you are willing to come home with paw prints on them.
“You get people wearing white pants,” he said, who then complain when a bunch of messy, playful dogs scuff them up.
As far as the city is concerned, there are a few dog laws: always keep a leash (no more than 6 feet long); stay off the grass and out of parks (except dog parks); don’t disturb the peace or damage property; pick up deposits; and wear a license on the collar (after 7 months old).
Dogs must be licensed with the city annually, or a dog owner faces up to $1,000 in fines. The HDA recommends licensing dogs, not only because it is the law, but also because it will help find an owner for a lost dog.
Fines are steeper for violations of the dog waste law. At a minimum, dog owners who don’t pick up after their pet are fined $100, at a maximum $2,000. Also, community service can be assigned for violations.
Remember, it is also illegal to deposit your dog’s waste in someone else’s trash can.
Dog licenses may be obtained in person at the Bureau of Licensing and Vital Statistics, located at the Multi-Service Center, 124 Grand St., between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To apply by mail, or for related questions, please call (201) 420-2365. License application and information are also available at www.hobokennj.org.
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.