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Search-and-rescue dog ordered to leave Watertown farmers market


Sandra A. King just wanted to get one of her German shepherds some search-and-rescue training at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce’s Farm and Craft Market on Wednesday.

The problem: The dog, Indra, wasn’t allowed to attend the market along Washington Street because of the city’s ban on canines at public events.

The City Council passed the law after a 2-year-old boy was mauled by an American bulldog while at the market last August.

Mrs. King, a dog handler with the Oswego County Search and Rescue K9 Team, and Indra were ordered by police officers to leave the market.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Mrs. King said, stressing that she was at the farmers market to get Indra more familiar with people as part of the animal’s training.

Attending a City Council meeting last January, the Watertown resident asked city officials about her situation before the law was approved.

She said then that she was worried the ordinance would impede her training methods. She uses public events and fundraisers as opportunities to show off the animals and help the dogs with socialization skills.

“I take them all over the county, but Watertown is the only place I can’t,” Mrs. King said.

But guide dogs, service dogs, working search dogs, therapy dogs and law enforcement canines can be excluded from the ban. According to the law, Mrs. King said, she should have been allowed to take Indra to the market.

She was told by the police officers that she could apply for a waiver through the city manager’s office, but that she probably would be turned down.

The process has not yet been worked out, city attorney Robert J. Slye said.

To let people know about the dog ban, the Chamber of Commerce places signs along the path of the weekly event. Several people attending the farmers market on Wednesday called the police about Indra.

Michelle A. Farrell, the chamber’s director of events, said she also “felt it was necessary to call the police” when Mrs. King wouldn’t leave.

Mrs. King was not given a ticket, but police officers went over the law with her and explained why she and the German shepherd had to go.

“Because our market is held on city property, it is necessary that we manage the market in accordance with all city ordinances,” Ms. Farrell said.

Mr. Slye said the police officers made the correct decision, since the dog was in training and was not working on an actual search.

“No harm, no foul,” he said.

A few minutes after the controversy with the German shepherd, Margaret Y. Chisamore showed up at the chamber’s tent to ask Ms. Farrell some questions about the ban and to ask why her Pomeranian puppy, Jasper, could not stay at the market.

Mrs. Chisamore, who uses a wheelchair, said the small dog was in a “puppy pouch” on her lap, so it did not pose a danger to others.

“I had no idea that I couldn’t bring her down,” Mrs. Chisamore said to Ms. Farrell.

But Ms. Farrell said all dogs are banned.

“You never know what might happen,” she said.

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