New Jersey State Parks Ease Pet Regulations
Pet owners can finally take the family dog or cat camping in some New Jersey's state parks under a new state Division of Parks and Forestry program launched Monday (June 1), according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
New Jersey was the last state in the mainland U.S. banning pets from state campgrounds. Only Hawaii continues to forbid pets from camping out on public land, according to a survey of park websites from all 50 states.
The New Jersey pilot project, which will continue through Dec. 31, does not, however, cover all state park campgrounds. Only three sites in south Jersey are pet-friendly, according to state officials, and several restrictions apply.
Campers must register ahead of time and a maximum of two pets per camping permit will be allowed. There will be no additional fees for pet-friendly campsites, but owners must leash their animals, provide proof of pet licensing and necessary vaccinations and "discourage barking and other noise," according to the new regulations.
Dogs and cats are also prohibited from all buildings, swimming beaches and swimming waters and any overnight facilities not specifically designated as pet-friendly. Of course, owners are expected to properly clean up and dispose of all pet waste.
"Responsible pet ownership is the key to making this program a success," said DEP Acting Commissioner Mark Mauriello, who announced the new program. "For many people, dogs and cats are bona fide members of the family. Taking pets along can make a family vacation even more special, so we're delighted to offer this new option."
The announcement comes at a time when the DEP is struggling with deep budget cuts, with even tougher cutbacks anticipated for the coming fiscal year. Mauriello insisted last month that no state parks will be closed as a result of the budget crunch, but the department has been grappling for ways to increase the estimated 18 million people who visit New Jersey's parks and forests each year.
Darlene Yuhas, a DEP spokeswoman, said the pet-friendly policy has been a consideration for several years. She said owners frequently asked about brining their pets camping and, "we knew there was an interest."
The Division of Parks and Forestry will gauge the success of the pet-friendly pilot program by evaluating pet owners' compliance and by gathering comment from all campers. Park officials reserve the right to eject any pets whose owners violate the guidelines.
For more information on the regulations and reservations information at the pet-friendly campsites, visit: www.njparksandforests.org.