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Jan 6, 2010 9:22 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Despite loss in court, man renews effort to control dogs on beaches

Jan 6, 2010 9:22 AM

After what he said were numerous complaints about the problem of dogs on beaches and ineffective meetings with members of the East Hampton Village administration and police department, Matt Norklun said he wanted to send a message, and he sent it in the form of dog feces and left it in a bag on the steps of Village Hall last year.

Mr. Norklun, 54, was arrested after the September 2008 incident and at his trial in East Hampton Town Justice Court on December 22, he was found guilty on a littering charge and fined $500, the maximum penalty, according to his attorney, Colin Asterita.

Mr. Asterita said he was surprised at both the littering charge and the outcome.

“He’s never been in trouble with the law, he’s spent the last 20 years volunteering and organizing beach cleanups,” he said. “For them to first charge him with this and then find him guilty is shocking.”

He said that in court he tried to make the argument that what Mr. Norklun did was not littering according to the definition in the village code.

“He didn’t discard it,” Mr. Asterita said. “It was litter when he found it. He safely packaged it and brought it to a municipal building.”

Outside the courtroom after his trial, Mr. Norklun said he considered his conviction as a sign that he should renew his battle. He said he intends to solicit donations to pay the $500 fine as a “matter of principle” to show that other community members support his stance. He said he has already collected a couple hundred dollars at the rate of about $10 per person. He said that many people have been “outraged” by the fine and have offered more, but he wants to prove that at least 50 other people want to see changes in the way the village handles the dog issue.

“It’s not about defending myself, it’s about defending the whole community,” he said.

Mr. Norklun said he is not “anti-dog” but that the lack of enforcement of the current rules for dogs on beaches compromises the health and safety of the community. He said that he finds the beach laden with dog feces and that he is attacked by unleashed dogs often when he runs on the beach. He said that since the “littering” incident he has become an informal spokesman for the issue and that he gets constant phone calls and complaints from people who have been attacked by dogs on the beach.

In December, East Hampton Village Beach Manager Ed McDonald reported to the Village Board of Trustees that there were fewer than 50 tickets issued to dog owners on the beach in 2009, which was down from the year before. But Mr. Norklun said he didn’t think the number was something to celebrate.

“You could write 47 tickets in one day,” he said. “On a typical day at the beach, nobody is enforcing the rules.”

Mr. Asterita said that after the trial, the arresting officer, who testified against Mr. Norklun, spoke to him about other ways to bring light to the issue and assured him that police officers do respond to dispatch calls about dog violations on the beach.

“That was encouraging,” he said. “But my complaint has really been that when they do respond, they still don’t do anything. It needs to be addressed at an administrative level.”

Mr. Norklun said he will continue to try to work with the community to resolve the problem, but that if people cannot control their pets, the easiest solution would be to ban dogs from the beach.

“I appreciate that people want to make compromises, but they aren’t working,” he said.

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This article has been edited since it was published to correct the spelling of Colin Astarita's last name.
By BOReilly (135), 27east Web Editor on Jan 6, 10 11:34 AM
This guy needs help.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jan 8, 10 12:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
"Matt Norklun said he wanted to send a message, and he sent it in the form of dog feces and left it in a bag on the steps of Village Hall last year."

What a charming man!
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Jan 8, 10 3:59 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By BlackDog (47), East Hampton on Jan 8, 10 7:41 PM
He is entirely in the right. If he wants some he movement on this issue he should bring a good size knife and gut the next dog that accosts him. People might then realize they are in the wrong by not following the what is the law.
By billybud (1), westhamptonbaech on Jan 9, 10 7:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By tm (174), mtk on Jan 11, 10 7:28 PM
Don't have to look at a calendar to know that it is January in the Hamptons.....

Not much else to report on right now, so we'll go with the feces story!
By wondering (63), Southampton on Jan 9, 10 9:20 AM
A dog is only as smart as its owner and that's not saying much about the majority of dog owners around here who arrogantly believe the beaches were created by God for their stinking mutt to crap on, chase and instill fear upon little children, joggers and the public in general.

I love when these morons bring their unleashed vicious pitbulls, rhodesian ridgebacks, mastiffs, etc. to the beach and say "my Fifi wouldn't hurt a fly" which brings me back to my original point; A dog is ...more
By Bilge Water (131), East Hampton on Jan 10, 10 9:18 AM
Instead of contributing to his defense fund, contribute money so we can build a decent dog on the East End. That would solve everyone's problem.
By wondering (63), Southampton on Jan 11, 10 9:33 PM
i own a dog and i pick up after him because i enjoy walking on the beach as much as he does.i think it is a polite and responsible thing to do.but lets be for real, seagull feces is just as bad if not worse and they are allowed on the beach year round. i say if you have an issue with dogs being allowed on the beach to play and inconsiderate dog owners, grow some balls and embarrass them right then and there into picking up after their dog.
By blackwidow18093 (1), easthampton on Jan 17, 10 2:37 PM