Dog Lover/Nudist Sues FI National Seashore
By David Crohn

Cheekies is obedient, well-trained and trustworthy. He is nudist Mark DelCore’s best friend. But does that mean the canine should be allowed onto a local nude beach?

That’s the question at the heart of a lawsuit DelCore filed July 12 against the Fire Island National Seashore. He claims that since he has a skin condition and other ailments as a result of the 9/11 attacks, he should be allowed to bring his rat terrier to a beach that attracts both nudists and the endangered piping plover during mating season.

“My dog is a typical service dog. He goes everywhere with me and provides me emotional support and comfort,” said the 39-year-old former bodybuilder in an affidavit made available on the web site TheSmokingGun.com.

Leashed dogs have always been allowed on most of the 26 miles of beaches on Fire Island. But the Fire Island National Seashore allows only guide dogs to his favorite spot near the Lighthouse, one of only two clothing-optional beaches where he can go to soak up the sun’s therapeutic rays.

“Utilizing a clothing-optional beach is a mandatory necessity for my skin condition,” says the affidavit. “Without sun exposure my skin erupts painfully and chronically."

DelCore says he was in a lower Manhattan gym when the planes hit. Still wet with perspiration, he was submerged in a cloud of dust as he fled the scene. Afterwards he was afflicted with an inexplicable skin disorder covering his body that is only alleviated by contact with the sun.

His affidavit says he has a stress fracture on his foot that makes it painful to walk long distances, and this beach, one of only two on Fire Island that allow nude bathing, is the one closest to his home in Forest Hills, Queens. And he can’t relocate to south Florida, a haven for nude bathers where he has a second home, because his employer won’t provide medical coverage out of state.

He says he also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and gastrointestinal problems and was forced to quit his job as a banker and go on disability.

After a 2005 run-in on the beach with a plover volunteer, he obtained a doctor’s letter explaining Cheekies’ status as a service animal that should have the same rights as a seeing eye dog.

On June 28 he says FINS told him to go to their Patchogue headquarters to give a copy of the letter to the superintendent’s office.

The next day, he called for driving directions and says he was dealt with harshly by Chief Ranger Wayne Valentine. "Mr. Valentine was crass, impatient and insistent that the service dog accessibility only applied for seeing eye dogs and not any other kind of service dog."

The incident triggered the lawsuit, in which DelCore is representing himself. Valentine and superintendent Mike Reynolds are named as defendants. In addition to the right to bring his dog to this beach, he is seeking mandatory sensitivity training for Valentine with a focus on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, who is defending FINS in the suit, spoke to The Fire Island News.

Nardoza said that at a preliminary hearing at federal court in Central Islip on July 14, Judge Joseph Bianco "saw no evidence that the dog is trained to deal with [DelCore’s] medical condition."

Judge Bianco asked DelCore to provide certification of the dog’s status as a service dog at the next hearing, as well as evidence of Cheekies’ skills as a service animal, Nardoza said. DelCore could not be reached for comment.

The case was adjourned until July 26.