They have been unwelcome visitors since the Commons were created in downtown Ithaca nearly four decades ago, but a new effort aims to have the city reconsider the ban on dogs on the Commons. Our Tamara Lindstrom tells us why.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- It's an unpleasant surprise to many visitors to the City of Ithaca.
"They expect that they can take their dog and walk them through this beautiful pedestrian mall that we have, but unfortunately, the only way you can have a dog on the Ithaca Commons right now is if you're a resident of the Commons, you can walk to and from your residence. Or if you're a business owner or an employee of a business, you can walk down the commons with your pet," said Fred Bonn, Ithaca Visitors Bureau Director.
That means four-legged friends have to be left at home or owners could face a ticket.
A number of complaints led the Visitors Bureau to take action, asking the Downtown Ithaca Alliance to look into the matter. But some have concerns.
Bonn said, "How do you handle dog waste? And what if you have an overly aggressive dog? There were those concerns. What we're starting to see, though, in other communities now that we have the dog park and a number of dog-themed events in our community, people's knowledge and experience with dogs and dog owners is much friendlier."
But it looks like those concerned with bad behavior are in the minority. So far, respondents both locally and out of town, have shown overwhelming support for changing the policy.
"I see this as a means of earning more travel from people, having them have a better experience, being able to talk about their experience In Ithaca. Those are people who talk and people listen to those comments," Bonn said.
The Downtown Ithaca Alliance is conducting an informal online survey. So far, more than 800 people have replied, with greater than 80 percent in favor of removing the ban.
As for any possible problems...
"I think it's a process that can take care of itself. People are responsible, dog owners are responsible. And if there is any sort of a conflict it can be handled at that level and it doesn't really require a set of laws governed by the city," Bonn said.
He says making downtown more pet-friendly will make it more people-friendly, too.
The survey will run through next week. After looking at those results, the DIA will present some recommendations to the city.