After many months of deliberations, the Representative Town Meeting is finally ready to vote on the proposed dog leash ordinance. The question is: do dog owners know what’s coming?
As a member of the RTM (District IV), I have always tried to represent the interests of my neighbors. When the RTM took up the proposed ordinance last year, I argued before the body that it wasn’t ready for a vote and that the dog owners had not been heard from. Just because the RTM was working on an ordinance didn’t mean that the affected parties knew about it or had been heard from.
I also suggested that RTM members speaking on the issue should disclose any conflict of interest, real or perceived, by identifying if they own a dog. (Being the proud owner of three cats who would never accept a leash, let alone be walked, I really had no stake in the battle.)
Adding further to the confusion was a question of jurisdiction. The Parks and Recreation Commission — a body quite separate and not tied to the RTM — sets rules for what goes on in our parks. The RTM’s proposed ordinance was only to affect dogs in public places (i.e., sidewalks and streets but not parks).
The Parks and Rec folks on their own dog leash rules in July, and they’re pretty confusing: certain parks allow unleashed dogs in certain areas at certain hours. And the Commission is not even sure they have funding to put signs up to let owners know what’s legal. Pretty hard to follow the rules if you don’t know what they are.
Per the draft ordinance: "Except in a dog run established by the Town or any private entity, no owner or keeper shall bring any dog onto any public street, sidewalk or any other public property unless the dog is on a leash or lead that is no more than twenty-five (25) feet and under the control of its owner or keeper at all times."
But both the Parks rules and the proposed RTM ordinance do share common wording on two important matters: dog owners are responsible for stopping their animals from destroying property and must clean up after their animals in a timely and sanitary manner. Seems fair enough, no?
As for my vote, I don’t really know. I hope my neighbors give me their ideas, just as I hope you reach out to your RTM representatives and let them know how you think they should vote. (Click here for a full list of RTM members by district and home phone number.)