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Park Controversy Leads To Charges Of Doggie Discrimination In Huntington

Large Dog Owners Upset Over Play Fee, Something Other Owners Don't Have
West Hills Park

Owners of large dogs say the policy inside West Hills park in Huntington is discriminatory. (Photo: CBS 2)

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HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Should the size of your pet determine how much you pay for them to play?

In one Long Island town that’s exactly what’s happening and some residents are calling it “doggie discrimination.”

At 120 pounds, “Fen,” a Newfoundland, is “restricted.” So are big dogs “Rider,” “Phoenix,” “Maki,” “Sampson” and “Boomer.” Their owners must pay to play with their pooches in the county park.

“Size matters. Yes, it is discriminatory because they don’t have a parking fee and we do,” large dog owner Lisa Lamorte told CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan on Tuesday.

If Fido weighs more than 25 pounds he’s limited to the large dog play area inside West Hills County Park in Huntington, while on the other side of the sprawling acreage small dogs are allowed in the small dog park at no cost.

“Thirteen dollars we have to pay. I think it’s ridiculous. I live 10 minutes from here,” said Laura Lerner, the owner of Maki.

“It seems just excessive to pay that kind of money, when I’m paying my taxes,” added Michael Siehs, Sampson’s owner.

“On the weekends, you’re stuck either paying $13 or $6 and it’s ridiculous,” added Tony Amanti, Phoenix’s owner.

The Suffolk County Parks commissioner said it’s not discrimination. The large dog park is located in the highly desirable picnic and barbeque area, near sports hiking and horseback riding trails.

On summer weekends everyone in that section pays $6 to park with a green key pass, $13 without.

“Six dollars every weekend day, Saturday, Sunday and holiday, on top of the green key fee is just too much, so I hike in from Jayne’s Hill,” said Dana Richter, who was accompanied Tuesday by Rider.

Walk-ins are free and on the other side of the 900-acre park it remains free for little dog owners to park.

“Here we don’t have a charge. I don’t think I’d come here if they charged,” one person said.

“There’s a shortage of dog parks and it’s not right to ask people to pay to come to a dog park,” another person said.

“It’s all about the budget crunch, everybody complaining they have no money. They took away our dog bags last year,” a third added.

Until recently, small and big dogs played together. Due to urgent need of space, a Long Island dog advocacy group convinced the county to build the park for large dogs, but some here want both dog parks free and equal.

Suffolk Parks leaders said they worked collaboratively with Long Island dog advocacy groups to construct the new large dogs playground and pointed out that fees already existed at that location of West Hills Park.

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