EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A squabble has erupted in a community on the East End of Long Island, as town officials rethink controversial leash laws affecting dog owners on the beach.

CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson watched Wednesday as Vincent Aversano unleashed “Maggie,” allowing her to run free on East Hampton’s village beach. For many dog owners at the beach, letting dogs loose when there are no crowds appears to be a rite of passage.

“I hope I don’t lose the right to walk the dog on the beach,” Aversano said. “She looks forward to it. I come here every day.”

But now, the freedom of frolicking on the beach with Fido is being rethought in the quaint Suffolk County town.

A new proposal would require dog owners to leash their dogs within 500 feet of village beach entrances between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m., when the beaches are closed to swimmers, in season between May in September.

“East Hampton has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and the board is concerned about protecting those for everyone’s use,” said Village Manager Larry Cantwell.

East Hampton has been bombarded with emails – close to 400 of them – praising or opposing the proposal. Running free is part of the fabric of the community, say many, but others worry about excrement when families are picnicking or playing in the sand after hours.

“Even as a dog owner, I see a lot of people just don’t pick up after their dogs, which is not good for hygiene of the beach,” said East Hampton summer resident Alan Johnson.

The proposals include options to remove the 6-foot leash and let a dog run free once it is 500 feet beyond the village beach entrances. Some are even asking for a total ban on dogs on the beaches.

“Not good,” said East Hampton homeowner Katie Simon. “They have a right to run free and owners have a right to have them on the beach and enjoy their animals.”

Right now, dogs are banned when beaches are open to swimming and lifeguard patrol.

A public hearing on the new leash proposal was scheduled for April 19.

Where do you stand on the issue of dogs on the beach? Leave your comments below…

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