Town Day 2014: As fun as ever!

A-DOG sponsored its popular booth at Arlington Town Day for the 7th year in a row! Thanks to all volunteers who made it possible, including Joan Black (shown at left), Ann and Roslyn Smith and other A-DOG members who showed up to help make the booth a success!  And, thanks to all the visitors who stopped by, enjoyed our games for kids, a free canine massage (see below), entered our free gift drawing (see below) and obtained information about A-DOG and recreational options for responsible dog owners in Arlington.

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Thanks to Friends of A-DOG Businesses and other supporters who donated goods and services to the event.

This includes Janice Zazinski of Beloved Companion who offered free canine massage at our booth.

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Also, to those who contributed valuable gift certificates or gift items to our gift bag, including:

  • Menotomy Beer, Wine and Spirits
  • Robins Nest Pet Salon
  • Vera Wilkinson of The Cooperative Dog training
  • Unleashed by PETCO, Arlington Heights store
  • A-DOG volunteers

Congratulations to Lizzie Casanave and family, who won the gift bag in our free drawing!

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Here are some more photos from A-DOG’s booth at Town Day, 2014:

 

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The Community Preservation Act: Town Meeting 2014

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A view of the dog park built in Randolph, MA with Community Preservation Act funds (photo from the Friends of Randolph Dog Park website)

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by Pam Hallett

As many A-DOG members are also Town Meeting members I am reaching out to you to be sure you understand the Community Preservation Act (CPA).  I am working with a small group of individuals trying to bring The Community Preservation Act to 2014 Town Meeting for adoption.  (If Town Meeting votes in favor of the CPA, it will then be put on the ballot so that the voters can decide whether Arlington should adopt the CPA.)  This link gives an overview of the Act.  This flyer explains how a small property tax surcharge ($86 per average household per year) could generate a significant amount of funding to use on open space, parks and outdoor recreational facilities, historic preservation and affordable housing.

So, think new dog parks, Thorndike Dog Park improvements, Menotomy Rocks Park and the Arlington Reservoir improvements to name a few parks/recreational facilities which could use the funding.  The Town of Randolph received funding from their CPA to create a new dog park in 2011 and again in 2013 to plant a screen of mature trees along the edge of the park.

The state provides an annual match to the fund.  Last year it was a 52% match.  Arlington could be looking at collecting over $1M each year to spend as the community sees fit.  The State match would increase that amount significantly.   Please read the information on the links for more specific information.

I hope that A-DOG will support the adoption of the CPA and that Town Meeting members who are also A-DOG members will stand up and support the adoption of the CPA at Town Meeting. Please contact me for more information and discussion.

Pam Hallett <phallett@housingcorparlington.org>

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Notes: This article represents the opinion of the author, an A-DOG member, and not an official position of A-DOG.  The Board of Selectmen has now voted (4-1), in their March 10 hearing, to recommend that Town Meeting vote in favor of the CPA.  Their draft recommended vote is here.  A report from the Town Manager to the Selectmen, describing possible projects the CPA might contribute to, is here.

Therapy Dog Event Featuring Human and Canine Volunteers from Dog B.O.N.E.S.:Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts

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Thank you to volunteers from Dog B.O.N.E.S.:  Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts for a very successful, informative and moving presentation on Therapy Dogs on the evening of November 13, 2013.  Thank-you, too, to the Fox Library, including librarian Laura Lintz, for hosting the event and to the Russell Fund, represented by Karen Dillon, for their support, including a donation to Dog B.O.N.E.S.

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The presentation was moderated by Ellen Duranceau, Dog B.O.N.E.S. volunteer and instructor, as well as an A-DOG Board Member.  Ellen explained the physical and psychological benefits that therapy dogs can offer to people of all ages.  For example, evidence has shown  beneficial physiological effects from intereracting with a dog, such as decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones, and increases in feel-good hormones including oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle chemical,” because it is released when bonding with a new baby or romantic partner.  Interacting with a dog even for a short time raises spirits,  and can reduce feelings of isolation and grief, and has been shown to improve memory and communication in the elderly.

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Ellen explained the difference between therapy dogs and service dogs.  Service dogs are trained to perform specific functions for an individual with a particular need, such as a guide dog or hearing ear dog, or a dog that assists with post-tramautic stress syndrome, and are allowed by law to travel wherever their people go.  Therapy dogs focus not on their handler, but on comforting other individuals in need.  Therapy dogs assist a wide range of populations including patients in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes, Alzheimer’s patients, people awaiting cancer treatment, and children  with  reading difficulties, emotional or physical disabilities, or autism.

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An important part of the event was hearing about the work of the nonprofit, volunteer-run organization Dog B.O.N.E.S. in certifying therapy dog teams, stressing that it is a team – the dog and handler together– that is certified through the organization.   Ellen’s own two dogs have worked with her as Dog B.O.N.E.S. therapy dogs, visiting the elderly in Arlington and surrounding towns for 10 years, and only recently did she make the difficult decision to retire them.  The work takes a lot of energy and focus and, Ellen explained, it is very important that the human volunteers ensure that the experience is as good for the dogs as it is for the people they are visiting.

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Ellen also explained that not every wonderful dog is destined to be a therapy dog. Dogs need to be outgoing, friendly, comfortable with new settings, calm, and well-trained. They cannot be overly aloof, show aggression, jump up, or mouth people. The main focus of the certification process is to ensure that only dogs that will enjoy therapy dog visits and be appropriate for such visits are certified.

 

After this background about Therapy Dogs, most of the program was devoted to hearing from three therapy dog teams:  Arlington resident Brittany DeLorme with her dog Charley; Agnes Shanahan with her dogs Suzie and Rosie, and Marci Goldberg Gorski, also an Arlington resident, A-DOG member and Dog B.O.N.E.S. instructor, and her dog Sophie.

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Brittany explained how her background as a children’s librarian introduced her to the great value that therapy dogs can bring to children, especially those having reading difficulties.  Reading to a dog, a nonjudgmental and calming audience, has helped many children to improve their reading skills and confidence.  Brittany’s experience observing this made her want to get involved, herself in therapy dog work.  She rescued her dog Charley, a beagle mix, and quickly realized that working with children was the perfect vocation for Charley.  During the presentation, Charley and the other therapy dogs certainly demonstrated their patience and sweet temperaments as several children enthusiastically approached them and wanted to interact throughout the event.

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Agnes explained how she had lost her beloved dog and had vowed never to have another one, because the death of her dog had been so painful. Then she agreed to foster a dog from the NEADS service dog program prior to the dog’s further training as a service dog.   Agnes fell so in love with this black lab, Suzie,  that she was relieved when Suzie later was removed from the NEADS service dog program, due to her nervousness in traffic, making it possible for  Agnes to  adopt Suzie .  They quickly became a therapy dog team.  One of their most rewarding activities has been to visit severely disabled children in a residential center.  Agnes finds the work deeply satisfying and moving, particularly when Suzie brings smiles to the children’s faces.  Suzie also helps out as a reading partner for a public library program.   More recently, Agnes adopted Rosie, another NEADS “furloughed” black lab, who is preparing for final therapy dog certification.

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Marci described how she rescued her dog, Sophie, a white-blonde golden retriever, when living in the Netherlands.  Like the others, she quickly realized that Sophie’s gentle nature, and interest in meeting new people, would make her an ideal therapy dog.  Sophie and Marci have been visiting a vocational program for young adults in Arlington for a number of years, and had become quite attached to the people there, though they have had to seek other sites to visit because Sophie can no longer manage the stairs.  They also visit local colleges during exam-week stress relief events, and help at the annual “critter day” at the Children’s Museum in Boston.  Marci emphasized a point also made by Agnes, that the staff at hospitals and nursing homes, working in an emotionally stressful environment, often derive as much benefit from the visiting therapy dogs as do their patients.

 

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Ellen, Brittany, Agnes and Marci addressed many wide-ranging and thoughtful audience questions from the sizeable group gathered, and gave attendees ample opportunity to interact with their dogs.  It was clear from hearing the volunteers speak about their passion for visiting with their dogs, and their dogs’ excitement about their “jobs,” that the simple process of having people interact with dogs offers benefits to everyone involved, not just those the dogs visit, but also the dogs’ owners and the dogs themselves.

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For more information about Dog BONES and becoming a therapy dog team, see www.therapydog.info.

 

Dog Park Etiquette workshop #1 was a big hit!

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On October 24, 2013, A-DOG sponsored the first in a series of workshops to help dog owners successfully navigate the joys and potential challenges of off-leash recreation.  Alana Meserve of ZenDog Lexington gave a very informative, enjoyable presentation covering such topics as canine body language, to teach the audience about clues that your dog is enjoying his time in the dog park or, instead, is not having a great time or perhaps is even in danger of getting into trouble.

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Arlington’s Animal Control Officer, Amanda Kennedy was also present to give her input on behavioral and other issues that can come up during off-leash recreation.  Overall, the presentation helped dog owners to learn about issues that they can deal with themselves, with training and control of their own dogs and communication with other dog owners, versus situations in which they should seek professional assistance and enforcement from the ACO.  Also, information in the workshop enabled owners to better understand whether their own dog could benefit from professional training.

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Moderators Joan Black (VP Membership) and Susan Ruderman (VP Development) made the program run smoothly, facilitating discussion and ensuring that audience questions were addressed. Other volunteers included Ellen Kravitz (audio/visual) and Pam Hallett, Laura Gerson and Sue Doctrow (greeting, signing up members, etc.).

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We were also happy to welcome Leslie Mayer, A-DOG’s liaison to the Park and Recreation Commission (PRC).  In coordination with the PRC and the Arlington Recreation Department, A-DOG and Alana look forward to holding future educational events, including “live demos” to be held at off-leash recreation sites such as the Thorndike OLRA.  In addition, we were happy to see that ACMI sent journalist/cameraman Jay Sundar Rajan to cover the event, in recognition of the community importance of programs that promote responsible dog ownership and recreation.  A-DOG was delighted, too, to welcome new members who were introduced to A-DOG that evening and decided to join us!

Stay tuned for the next A-DOG educational program!

 

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An Inspiration: A-DOG member Christine and her therapy dog Windy bring comfort in Newtown, Boston and here at home

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An essay and photos contributed by Christine Anastos, A-DOG member, to share her meaningful work helping chlidren through tragedy and challenge with her sensitive, loving therapy dog, Windy.  (Please note that the two photos of Windy with Boston Police Department officers were taken by Gretta Rybus)

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IMAG1496 - Copy“I think that you should get a gold medal for the best, calmest, and nicest dog in the whole entire world! … We all love you and we know you love all of us.” ~5th Grade Student from  Newtown, CT

 

On October 10, 2009, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to adopt a Black Labrador Retriever, and retired guide dog, Windy, from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, NY. From the moment I met her, and saw that “look” in her eyes, I vowed to share this amazing dog with others. Windy fills my life with those “Heavenly Days” – popularized by songwriter Patty Griffin – and, I strive to ensure that she does the same for others.

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Windy has been working as a therapy dog at the Youth Villages/Germaine Lawrence Treatment Center for girls with serious emotional and behavioral issues in Arlington, MA and, more recently, has been involved in the ongoing response of therapy dogs to the Newtown killings and the Boston Marathon bombings. In all settings, I have witnessed the impact that Windy has on those who she encounters. Depending on the circumstances, Windy can easily transition from one extreme to another. Specifically, she may be seen leaning against someone’s leg, writhing around on her back in ecstasy while having her belly rubbed, lying on her side so that she can be petted, or wagging her tail nonstop like a propeller.

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In the words of one student from Newtown, “In a great tragedy you have brought us happiness. If your job is to make us happy, you have exceeded standards.” Another student, whose cousin was killed in the tragedy, sent Windy a letter that read, “We can never thank you enough for being the best therapy dog there is and coming to us every Friday. You light up everybody’s day so much. Thank you for being yourself!” Windy’s playful side was described by another student as, “I loved when you came to Physical Education and ran laps with us. It was so cute. I also liked your soft fur and your ears! You were so gentle and kind to everyone. We love you.”

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Windy appears to excel at what she does because she is extremely sensitive and takes in all of the emotion. She wants to help – and, actively seeks out those in need; it is fascinating to observe her in action. With her calm confidence, gentle demeanor, and caring gaze, she quickly turns tears and fears into smiles and laughs. Windy’s unconditional love, which is expressed in a variety of ways – e.g., her affection and attentiveness, inquisitive and mesmerizing eyes, her acrobatic movements – is hard to resist. I have been told by people, both young and old, that Windy’s healing presence gives them strength and, further, that they feel she really cares about them.

 

Watching Windy “work” is particularly rewarding to me since I have accomplished even more than what I set out to do with my loyal companion and devoted therapy dog.

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Welcome to the A-DOG Website Front Page

Featured

 

Arlington Dog Owners Group, or A-DOG, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) community organization celebrating the canine-human bond!  Since 2008, A-DOG has represented the rights and interests of responsible dog owners in Arlington, MA.

“I love A-DOG! Always will!” — Carrie M., Arlington

Read what else  our members have to say about A-DOG!

See some of our dogs!

Join the A-DOG group on Facebook, just for fun and to stick together!

Shop for A-DOG products!

Support the Thorndike Dog Park in Arlington!

Copyright 2008 – 2016, Arlington Dog Owners Group, all rights reserved

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WHAT’S NEW:

  • Membership:  Be an A-DOG member — join or renew today!  Details.
  • A-DOG Meetings 4th Tuesday evenings at 6:30 pm, at Jefferson Cutter House Community Room, Arlington Center unless otherwise announced. We have 4 meetings per year. The last meeting for 2017 will be Oct 23.  Mark your calendars and join us! Usually, our meetings are 1 to 1.5 hr (beginning at 7) with refreshments and visiting beforehand.
  • Future fun in 2017: After many great events this year (many details in past issues of Wags and Tags, on our Newsletter page), we’re looking forward to our Town Day booth.  Make sure you join us for our events or at least sign up (below) for the Wags and Tags newsletter, to be kept in the loop!

A-DOG Members get our fun, informative monthly newsletter Wags and Tags.  We hope you will join us!  But, if you are not a member and want to sign up for Wags and Tags anyway, just click the green button:

 

Get Wags and Tags!

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ARLINGTON DOG RECREATION HIGHLIGHTS

    •  Morning off-leash recreation is now allowed at several Arlington parks.  An A-DOG sponsored Town Meeting Article (Art. 36, 2010) made this bylaw change possible!  (see Animal Control bylaws and search “Article 36” for more history.)  Regulations for off-leash hours are on the town website.
    • Thorndike OLRA, Arlington’s first dedicated fenced dog park is now open and is very popular with dog owning families and with people who love to bring their children to visit the dogs!.  Check here to join our community and support the dog park, and the town website for regulations and other key information.
    • Leash law:  otherwise, dogs not on their owners’ property must be walked on a 6-foot leash.  (see Canine Control bylaws)

 

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THE A-DOG WEBSITE BELONGS TO ALL OF US — PLEASE CONTRIBUTE YOUR COMMENTS TO OUR CONTENT!

Welcome to our website! Please read our articles and enter comments wherever you’d like (there is a comment section after each article).  We ask that you not post anonymously but that, instead, you sign your name, to encourage the most constructive dialog possible in our community. The comments are moderated and we reserve the right to not publish comments for certain reasons, such as no email provided. (This email address is visible to the moderators but not to the public viewing the site.) If a comment seems particularly rude and disrespectful, we reserve the right not to publish it and will try to inform the author by email with a chance to revise it. We will, however, do our best to allow, and encourage, comments representing all points of view on issues of relevance to our articles.

We welcome submissions of articles on relevant topics. If you’d like to write an article for this website and/or our Wags and Tags Newsletter, please contact us at the email given below with your proposal. Unlike comments, however, we will not publish articles written under a “nom de plume”unless there is a good reason for the anonymity

Feel free to contact us at <arlingtondogowners@gmail.com> with questions, feedback, article proposals, or any other inquiry.

Life is a walk in the (dog) park


Unleashed, pooches and their human pals have more in common than you’d think.

By Matthew Gilbert

Globe Staff / May 31, 2011

(Note from SRD:  I loved this article (thanks to Brenda Kokubo for passing it on)!  It so clearly describes why we get up each morning, put on our grungiest sweatpants, and escort our doggies to the local park to meet their, and our, friends. Especially, to me, it describes the bonding among dog owners: some become our closest friends, others will always be only the anonymous “Fido’s mom”; but with all we end up sharing a valuable connection. People who come to public meetings to protest, in an exaggerated fashion anyway, “20 dog owners standing around with coffee cups” just don’t get it..that this is a community recreational activity as important to people as to their dogs. This article is reprinted on our website with permission from its author, Matthew Gilbert…..please comment on the article and join the Pets group on boston.com!)

I get high every single day from Amory Playground in Brookline. Overlooking Boston, with a front-row-balcony view of the Prudential, Amory’s dog-friendly hours are a daily dose of joy not just for my Yellow Lab, Toby, but for me. Like so many dog owners, when my dog goes off the leash, I do too.

Mostly, the rush is from being in the presence of freed animals in the city. I come to the dog park and leave behind so many of the rules of adulthood and city life. I roll into the parking lot, unhook Toby, and get pulled into this uncontrollable dog park world.

Even on rain-swept mornings, when the great field is sludgy and Toby’s rubber ball is an orb of mud, I like to go there, find a few like-minded congregants huddled under trees along the perimeter, and stand soaking with them. Sunny, dry days are better. We form a minyan of dog people, and we mumble together while our animals shake it up around us. The dogs improvise a biblical scene about dominance and submission, and they corral and chase one another into corners of the field like school kids at recess. We analyze their play, and we see ourselves in it.

I used to be clean most of the time, always soft-spoken, and unwilling to throw balls in public. I’d spend my spare time with my iPod on, or power-watching classic TV shows. Before Toby, who is now 6, I still stood a chance of seeing every episode of “Law & Order” ever made. Now, I rarely miss a morning at Amory, unconcerned about how imbecilic I look pitching the ball for Toby to fetch. Now my pants legs are ever-splotched from dog paws. After an hour, I am dirty and maybe stinky, too. More than once, I’ve been peed on by a dog, unaware until I detect an unusual warmth on my calf. My dog-averse friends will no longer take rides in my toy-cluttered, fur-flecked car.

There is something spiritual about these daily park visits, I am sure of that. They move me in ways my other quasi-religious forays including one ground-rumbling mass in a Colorado forest never did. Partly, the rush comes from the lushness of Amory, which includes two romantic baseball diamonds, a rim of fairy-tale weeping willows, and a pastoral hillside, for lying in the shade on perfect summer days. It’s an idyllic urban spot, like so many of the dog parks in this country; it’s one of the closest things to a fairground you’ll find on Boston’s Green line, between the B and C trolleys, a few blocks from Fenway Park and its interrogatory lights. With free admission, no dress code, squirrels on picnic tables, nannies with strollers, and the scent of pot occasionally tinging the breeze, the park carries the air of civilization at its most wistfully mundane.

But mostly, the rush is from the dogs, from being in the presence of freed animals in the city. I come to the dog park and leave behind so many of the rules and barriers of adulthood and city life. I roll into the parking lot, unhook Toby, and get pulled into this uncontrollable dog park world where sudden, unplanned things happen and where there are no traffic lights. While my DVR is sitting at home living by a tight schedule, I’m unplugged. I instantly feel a heightened pressure to be ready to spring into the moment of a dog fight, or one of the many owner fights, or to catch a dog charging into the street to chase cars. It’s liberating, to let go of the habit of circumspection and caution, to be more alert to the possibilities of the here and now. We become more dog-like at the park, even while we stand around brazenly anthropomorphizing our beloved pets into infants, TV characters, and, in the case of Quincy the Amazing Midair Frisbee-catching Collie, sports heroes.

Humans don’t bark – or do they? When we’re off-leash, we certainly do. In conversation with another dog owner, one of us inevitably has Tourette-like outbursts, mid-sentence. This doesn’t generally happen at a coffee shop or in the subway, among the civilized. But you can be confiding in a park friend about losing your keys, or losing your job, or losing your father, when she suddenly begins calling her dog away from a puddle, away from a passerby on the walking path, or, in the case of the crumb-obsessed Toby, away from a baby carriage. And our calls aren’t gentle or even civil; they have enough raw affect to reach a brain that only hears affect. From “Daisy girl, DAYY-sy girl,” to “Come HERE Alexis,” we can be heard screaming out across the field. Despite a stubbornly mellow voice born for FM radio, I have had to become a scrappy newspaper hawker “Toby COME, Toby COME,” again and again.

Collectively, we probably sound like hungry farm animals. Or maybe we’re a congregation of supplicants, yelling and yelling to be heard just once.

Maybe we sound like fools, too. Who cares. The anonymity of the park can be disarming, freeing. It’s part of the uplift, too. I can’t count how many deeply satisfying conversations I’ve had with strangers over the six years of Toby’s life, interactions charged solely with the love of or fascination with dogs. How strange and yet natural it is to share intimate details of your “goose” or “monkey” with someone you’ve never seen before and may never see again — a BU student, a homeless man, a suburban mom. In those moments, it feels like a small world. Or maybe a carnival, or a World Series game, or a Grateful Dead concert. Who you might be, or not be, outside the park borders doesn’t quite matter. Such social hierarchy has less weight on a rainy morning when you’re standing together wrapped in electric blue and orange nylon. If you know dogs, if you love dogs, if you are funny, if you’re a good listener, if you’re a good talker, then you can find your spot. We enter the park as pretty much just ourselves. It’s a purer hierarchy.

In many cases, we don’t even know one another’s names, just the dogs’ names. We’re unleashed from the burden of our names.

And, of course, we’re not all strangers. There is an attachment among park people that, after years, can be profound. I’ve made a few lifelong friends standing in that field. Many of us see our park mates more than we see friends out in the world; we’re the cast of “The Office” or “Cheers,” reading one another’s weaknesses, teasing as a sign of affection, noticing absences.

Indeed, this community of dog lovers has been the great bonus of the park. Dogs, little gusts of spirit, are a way into our own hearts, yes, but they are also a bridge to other people. We could be walking alone with our dogs, day in and day out, looping the neighborhood blocks, nodding or not nodding to the other dog owners on leash. I could be playing tug of war with Toby in the TV room, in front of an episode of “30 Rock.”

But instead we choose to meet up, despite the social irritations and the occasional bad dog — or maybe because of the social irritations and the bad dogs and the ever-present potential for cracks in the surface. The tone of interaction usually isn’t very refined, as we pick up poop and carry it in plastic bags, its malodor assaulting our nostrils; as we pull humping dogs off their conquests by their collars and maybe reveal a glimpse of pink; as we share and overshare and listen to the rantings of the less tethered among us. We let it all hang out.

The dog play ushers in an atmosphere of extroversion and, sometimes unexpectedly, celebration. With the yelling, and the dirt, and the swirling dog energy accelerating our un-self-consciousness, it’s as though we’re children at the playground all over again. Forts are built and ponytails are tugged — figuratively, of course, but still. It’s as close to the unadorned, primitive socializing of “Peanuts” as I’ve known. Yes, all of the dynamic problems of groups (read: families) are in the air — the triangular tensions, the unrequited attractions, the ganging up, the passive-aggression. But they are in the air, and not subterranean. They are as obvious as the little mutt who thinks we can’t see she’s got a big, illicit clump of grass in her mouth.

One day recently, I took a step back and watched. Sitting under a maple tree on the hill that borders Amory and simply observing bodies in motion, I saw that the humans moved like the dogs, only at a much slower pace. The dogs — romping, chasing, looping — were an accelerated, time-lapse version of the people. As a group, the owners migrate slowly, curling forward, shedding and gaining members along their path; the dogs do it 30 times for their one.

Sitting up on the hill in that moment, watching the human and the canine social whirl side by side, I see all the movement in the park as a sky filled with planets and constellations. And the dogs are our shooting stars.

Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert is working on a book about dog-park culture called “Off the Leash: Dispatches From the Dog Park.” He can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.

Debate Continues on Off-Leash Hours and “Probation” is Considered by Board of Selectmen.

Last spring, Arlington Town Meeting passed a substitute motion sponsored by A-DOG Town Meeting Members. This bylaw change, now taking effect, allows dogs off leash, under owner control, in parks under Parks and Recreation Commission authority. Certain areas are excluded, including parks right next to school buildings, near playground equipment, and any other site by exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission. See further details here.  As we told our members when the program began, this is “a great step for responsible dog owners in Arlington!  Please continue to exercise and to encourage responsible practices, including honoring the legal morning hours.”  According to the records maintained by the Parks and Recreation Commission, there have been a relatively small number of complaints about the program (approximately 25, made by about 15 individuals, one of whom is responsible for over 25% of the compaints), and an approximately equal number of positive reports.  Reports from the Animal Control Officer have been similar, citing few incidents and complaints.

Nonetheless, the Board of Selectmen (who, in a 4-1 vote, opposed our proposal for Article 36 at last year’s hearing ) is now considering a “probation” plan for Robbins Farm Park and Menotomy Rocks Park, though it is not clear what that means.  It has been suggested, including by one Selectman at the meeting, that future actions could include suspending off-leash activity at both parks.  That Selectmen has also stated that Robbins and Menotomy are in a “crisis” situation.  The recent “probation” discussion appears to have been precipitated by a lengthy complaint, made by an individual who has consistently opposed off-leash recreation at Robbins, presented to the Board of Selectmen at their February 7, 2011 meeting.  A video of this meeting is available here.  In a followup meeting, March 14, the Selectmen said that, based on the Parks and Rec Commission recommendation, they will not at this time institute a “probation”, but some of them have alleged that they receive many complaints (one said that she doesn’t pass on 2/3 of the complaints she receives) to support the “crisis” status of Robbins and Menotomy that they are not making available to the public.  After at least one resident stated that making rulings based on secret information is not fair to the public (we do have Open Meeting Law governing our public process), one Selectman agreed to pass on any information she can in order to increase transparency. (There was further animated discussion at this meeting, which will also soon be made available to the public as a video.)

Another item brought up by members of the public was the need for some afternoon off-leash hours.  This will require a new vote from TM so we urge present and future TM members to get involved in this effort!

FellsDOG Member Comments on off-leash recreation at the Middlesex Fells

Introductory commentary by Susan Doctrow of A-DOG: David Monahan, a member of FellsDOG and a MassDOG colleague, has written a very well-researched, thoughtful letter to the DCR regarding off-leash recreation at the Middlesex Fells that we present here with David’s permission. This includes a rebuttal of erroneously cited research that has been used to exaggerate claims that dogs cause environmental harm. This topic has been debated recently, as the DCR has produced a new Trail Plan to provide for responsible recreational use at this local treasure. Many of us enjoy regularly visiting the Fells with our families, including our family dogs. The DCR has held public meetings, including a very, well-attended workshop that many of us (including Susan Doctrow and Ann Smith of A-DOG) were pleased to participate in.  MassDOG member groups, particularly from Somerville and Melrose have been very active in this effort. Also extremely involved has been Greater Boston New England Mountain Biking Association NEMBA, which works to promote responsible mountain biking in the Fells and sponsors much volunteer effort for trail maintenance and rebuilding. Overall, dog owner groups and NEMBA support responsible recreational use of the Fells, as do many hikers who do not necessarily participate in these two specific activities but believe in mutually beneficial shared enjoyment of public space. Other parties, most notably a group known as Friends of the Fells have representatives advocating restricting recreation uses of the Fells in favor of more passive enjoyment, in the name of strict preservation, instead of for the broader recreational purpose of this public space. The Friends of the Fells leadership, in particular, has reportedly been quite vocal, condemning certain forms of recreational use, particularly mountain biking and off-leash dog recreation, reportedly making exaggerated claims of environmental impact similar to those discussed in David’s letter. In developing its new Trail Plan, the DCR has reached out more broadly to include the recreational interests of stakeholders such as MassDOG member groups and NEMBA. (Yet, on its website, the Friends of the Fells describes this well-balanced effort in inflammatory terms…claiming in a “Fells Alert!” that DCR will turn the Fells into a “Mountain Bike Park”.) In its Trail Plan, DCR has taken an excellent first step toward addressing the needs of dog owners, who, according to the DCR’s own presentation at a public workshop comprise a very large contingent of Fells users (e.g. 39% of respondents to a use survey). This “first step” that the DCR proposes is to make the Sheepfold a legal off-leash recreation space. While we applaud this action, we encourage the DCR to also open certain trails at the Fells to responsible off-leash recreation. This will enable we dog owners to enjoy hiking the Fells with our entire families. After reading David’s letter and studying the current version of DCR’s Trail Plan (the link will appear at the end of David’s letter), make your opinion known.  Though I believe the official comment period on the Trail Plan has ended, establishing recreational use policies for the Fells will be an ongoing effort and it will probably never hurt for you to, if you haven’t already, contact DCR to express your support for off-leash recreation.

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Letter by David Monahan of FellsDOG:

November 19, 2010
Department of Conservation and Recreation
c/o Fells Trail Plan
136 Damon Road
Northampton, MA 01060
Re: Middlesex Fells Trail Plan

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to express to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) my comments to the Middlesex Fells Reservation Draft Trail Plan. In summary, as a dog owner who has visited the Fells regularly with my dog for years, I am glad to see that the DCR has taken the needs of dog owners into account in drafting this plan, and has proposed a trial off-leash dog area or times at Sheepfold. But I must take issue with the fact that no provision has been made for designating trails for use by dog owners, and I also object to misleading and unsupported statements in Appendix E regarding the environmental impact of dogs. I thank the DCR for its thoughtful manner of devising a trail plan which protects this wonderful natural resource, and takes into account the needs of all user groups. It was encouraging to be invited to public meetings to hear and comment on the proposed plan, and the site visits to walk through the Fells with DCR staff were very informative.

I. The Middlesex Fells is part of the Urban Parks District The foundation of all plans for the Middlesex Fells should be recognition that it is an urban park. Under Chapter 92, Section 33 of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Fells is within the “urban parks district”—designated as “open spaces for exercise and recreation.” While some nature groups would apparently like to cordon off the park so that their members can stand on the perimeter and gaze in with binoculars, that is not what the law provides. The good news is that the park is used every day of the year by Massachusetts residents who respect its natural beauty and the living things within it. These include large numbers of dog owners who visit the park with their dogs, and mountain bikers. Both groups are, primarily, responsible park users who respect the rights of other park users and treat our natural resources with great respect.

II. Dog owner use of the Fells
Dog owners use the Sheepfold and the trails throughout the Fells 365 days a year. Considering the large number of visitors to the Sheepfold on a daily basis, the park is remarkably clean and free of debris. Most dog owners are very careful to take out and deposit in the trash bin anything that they bring into the park. I commend the DCR for proposing an off-leash area or off-leash hours at Sheepfold, and I believe this idea is long overdue. I am involved with the Middlesex Fells Dog Owner Group (FellsDOG), and I know that this group and other area dog owner groups are prepared to work with the DCR and other user groups to help develop an appropriate plan for off-leash activity at the Sheepfold. The focus of our groups has always been to educate dog owners on the need to pick up dog waste every single time, and to supervise our dogs to ensure that they are playing safely and not interfering with other park users. We would be glad to serve this role as legal off-leash activity is rolled out at the Fells. I was pleased to see that the Trail System Plan includes engaging in various outdoor activities with the family dog among its “managed experiences” at the Fells. Dog owners also use the trails at the Fells in a responsible fashion. Considering the miles and miles of trails at the Fells, there is no reason why the DCR should not develop a plan to designate one or more trails as permissible for off-leash dog walking.

III. Misleading statements about the environmental impact of dogs
I object to misleading statements in Appendix E under the heading “What are the Impacts of Dogs and Dog Walking?” They give the impression that dogs are more damaging to the environment than the cited studies actually state. The first paragraph of that section gives the impression that dogs are a major cause of fecal coliform bacteria in water supplies. But all available research, including cases cited in this section, show waterfowl, gulls, and pigeons to be a much greater source of fecal coliform in water supplies than dogs, and note that cats, squirrels, raccoons, rats, and other animals all contribute to fecal coliform levels. This section cites a 1996 report issued by Alderisio, Wait, and Sobsey regarding the New York City Water Supply. But that report, based on research at the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County, noted the need for resources “to investigate and mitigate potential nonhuman sources such as waterfowl and gulls, as well as other wildlife in the Kensico watershed.” It made no mention of dogs. For more on the various sources of non-human fecal coliform bacteria, see Focus: Bacteria in the Issaquah Creek Basin, Washington State Department of Ecology (2004), http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0410038.pdf The second paragraph of that section similarly overstates the impact of dog walking on wildlife. One would think that the litany of scientific studies cited was damning evidence of the negative impact of dogs. But the studies listed simply do not support the hypothesis. For instance, the Nol and Brooks study on Effects of Predator Exclosures on Nesting Success of Killdeer describes the predatory actions of gulls, raccoons, and other mammals—it makes no mention of dogs. The George and Crooks study on Recreation and large mammal activity in an urban nature reserve finds negative “relative activity” impacts upon coyotes, bobcats, and mule deer to be greater from hikers and bikers than from dogs. And the Miller, Knight, Miller report Wildlife responses to pedestrians and dogs showed that the general area of influence on most wildlife was less for a dog walking alone than it was for a person walking alone. We all agree that the impact of dogs on wildlife should be taken into account when formulating a trail plan for the Fells or any other park. But let us not overstate the impact that dogs have as compared to hikers and bikers.

IV. The benefits of activity with dogs
Finally, I note that the plan goes to great lengths to attempt to document the negative impact of dogs, but not to note the benefits. I will refer to one study which says it well:
Benefits of dogs:
• As dogs need daily walking, their owners gain benefits from regular exercise and access to the countryside.

• Dog ownership results in important health, psychological and social benefits for all family members.

• Studies have shown that dog ownership produces beneficial physiological effects in people such as favourable changes in blood lipids, glucose, blood pressure, immune levels and pain relief.

Taylor, K., Anderson, P., Taylor, R., Longden, K. and Fisher, P., 2005. Dogs,
access and nature conservation. English Nature, ENRR No. 649.
The same study goes on, after noting that dogs do have some impact on wildlife, to state:
[S]uch is the benefit that dogs bring and the widespread expectation that dog owners can take their dogs into the countryside, it is impractical to consider banning dogs from all sites of nature conservation value. Evidence suggests that integrated management strategies can be devised (based on control of dogs and influencing their owners) that will reduce the impact of dogs on many nature conservation sites, and seek mutually beneficial solutions.

I would suggest that the DCR should maintain the same balanced approach as it fine tunes and implements a new Middlesex Fells Trail Plan.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the planning process.
Sincerely,
/s/ David W. Monahan
David W. Monahan
********

More information:

To see the current Middlesex Fells Trail Plan and related materials: Middlesex Fells Trail Plan link at DCR

To give input to the DCR on off-leash recreation, write to:

Paul Jahnige
Middlesex Fells Trail Plan
136 Damon Rd
Northampton, MA 01060
paul.jahnige@state.ma.us

It is also useful to contact your state Representative (for Arlington, Reps Sean Garballey, Jay Kaufman, Will Brownsberger) and state Senator (for Arlington, Sen. Ken Donnelly) regarding making our state parks, including the Fells, more hospitable to responsible off leash recreation.

Arlington Residents Write to the Arlington Advocate on Off-Leash Recreation

As Town Meeting considers Article 36, to amend the bylaws to allow off-leash recreation under certain conditions, several letters in support of off-leash recreation were published in the April 29 Arlington Advocate. (All letters on this topic from two most recent editions were reprinted in their entirety. This consists of twelve letters supporting off-leash recreation (one for fenced parks), and two opposing letters. To add your opinion, enter Comments below this article.)

From April 29, 2010:

Letters supporting the Substitute Motion under Article 36, to allow early-morning responsible off-leash recreation in Arlington parks:

Letter: Consider off-leash hours
By Ellen Duranceau
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

I was disappointed by the Board of Selectmen’s “no action” vote on a warrant article that would allow the Parks & Recreation Commission to designate some early morning hours in some areas for walking dogs off leash. I am writing in the hopes that Town Meeting members will consider the issue independently of the selectmen’s comments.

The board’s stated reservations seem wrong-headed. One is that no further bylaw amendments should be considered until dog owners stop violating the existing leash law. Because the current law doesn’t allow dogs to run anywhere in town, this is an unrealistic expectation, and presents an impossible dilemma for those of us attempting to be responsible citizens and responsible dog owners as well. If the existing law was workable, most people wouldn’t violate it.

The other reservation offered by the board, that we should wait to see what happens with plans for a fenced dog park before making any other changes, also doesn’t make sense. Even if a fenced dog park was created, this would not solve the problem for the many dogs and their owners who won’t live near the park, or whose dogs are too vulnerable or shy to participate in rough-and-tumble play with dogs they don’t know.

Dogs have co-evolved with humans for more than 12,000 years to develop a unique interspecies bond. Dogs provide emotional support and significant service (including acting as police dogs, rescue dogs, seeing eye dogs, seizure detection dogs, and therapy dogs among many other roles) in our society. Yes, it is difficult to accommodate the needs of all the human citizens of Arlington with our limited open space. But it’s time for Arlington to join neighboring towns and allow normal exercise and socialization for dogs and their owners. It’s time to stop telling us dog owners that we are criminals for having the same needs as those in Cambridge, Burlington and many other towns, where those needs are met.

The Board of Selectmen should be calling for change, not for adherence to a set of rules that don’t work. — Ellen Duranceau, Chatham St.
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Letter: Socialization is important
By Robin Varghese
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

My family and I recently moved to Arlington for the progressive values, good schools and playgrounds for my young children. I have largely stayed out of the local political scene until I heard about the difficulty responsible Arlington dog owners have had obtaining permission to use portions of the public parks to exercise and socialize their dogs with other responsible dog owners.

I have a 6-month-old puppy that does not bark in my yard nor jump on visitors, which is in large part due to socialization I’ve been able to do with other responsible dog owners. It is a shame that Arlington residents have nowhere to legally allow their dogs off leash. Many of the surrounding communities either provide off-leash areas or are off-leash towns.

All dog trainers, books and classes that dog owners look to for advice insist that opportunities to socialize dogs allow them to be trained to be good members of our community. These currently illegal activities make our neighborhoods more peaceful, as a well-exercised dog is a quiet dog. Also, dog owners that may not always pick up after their dogs are reminded of their responsibilities to do so by responsible dog owners when they are together in groups and encouraged to help support off-leash laws.

My children also enjoy playing fetch with our dog and given the small lot size of Arlington homes, it is difficult to do so on our private property. In Arlington, there is no place for us to play fetch, toss a Frisbee or play outside with our family pet.

Surrounding communities provide such opportunities, however, we are prohibited from allowing our dog off leash in the neighboring areas (i.e. Cambridge), as we are not residents. I would like to encourage your readers to write to their Town Meeting representatives and ask for their support during the upcoming Town Meeting and support Article 36. Please help us feel proud to be dog owners in Arlington, a progressive community that respects and hopefully will provide resources for families and “man’s best friend,” the family dog, to play together. — Robin Varghese, Chester St.
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Letter: Support Article 36
By Tina Silberman
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

As a resident of Arlington and a dog owner, I am writing to express my gratitude to the Parks and Recreation Commission for their support of proposed Article 36 to allow dogs to be off leash at our parks until 9 a.m. I am also writing to encourage Town Meeting members to consider supporting this article as well.

I am incredibly disappointed that after all of the time and effort that has gone into the creation of a suitable compromise plan such as Green Dog, or this new article, that the Board of Selectmen (with the exception of Kevin Greeley), and in particular, Clarissa Rowe, who spent so much time helping to craft the Green Dog Plan, voted No Action on this proposed article.

And, to add insult to injury, the following comment was issued in the report from the BoS to Town Meeting, “[a] majority of the [b]oard also feels the behavior of dog-owners who routinely violate the leash law needs to change before a bylaw amendment should be considered again.”

Who will be monitoring and tracking the behavior of the dog owners in order to decide when exactly a leash law amendment should be considered again? Is the same group going to be monitoring all of the other laws that are broken regarding behavior at our parks? Such as littering, unauthorized cutting of trees and bushes, fires, gatherings after parks are closed?

Things have escalated over the past few weeks and we now have the police issuing warnings and tickets to dog owners who have their dogs off leash at 6:30 a.m. at the parks. While they are indeed breaking the law, I question the harm they are doing, as well as the selective enforcement of only this law. And, I truly hope that a more serious crime is not committed while the police are spending their time enforcing the leash laws.

The time is now to resolve this divisive issue in our town so that the BoS and Town Meeting can turn their attention to the much more pressing issues that are facing our community.

Town Meeting members, please support Article 36, I would hate to think that a vocal minority of residents have a louder voice than the rest of us. — Tina Silberman, Cedar Avenue
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Letter: Dogs need more
By Stephen, Margie, Lindsay and Savannah Weil
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

I’ve been a resident of Arlington for the past 32 years and a dog owner for most of that time. In my personal experience, I have never had a confrontation with anyone who is afraid of dogs, dislikes them or is concerned about their impact on the environment or the community.

I believe this is the case because my family and I are all responsible dog owners who understand that not all people respond to dogs the way that we do.

Our children grew up with dogs. In fact, our younger daughter picked out our 130 pound large breed dog when she was 5 years old and has been hooked on them ever since. (She is now 21, and we have a new large breed dog as a member of the family.)

We are respectful of our neighbors, we pick up after our dog (no matter how far into the woods she defecates), she is under voice control when not on a leash, and she loves to romp and play with people and at 145 pounds loves dogs of all sizes and ages. (Her best friend is a 15-pound Terrier who comes to our house for “play dates.”)

But she needs more room than our backyard (not to mention an enclosed dog park) can provide to really get the exercise and socialization that she needs and deserves. Just like all of the opponents of off-leash dogs, I am a taxpayer and law-abiding citizen of Arlington. I believe that my dog and me should be afforded the same rights as any other taxpaying, law-abiding citizen. This includes full, complete and equal use of the public facilities that my tax dollars support.

That said, I understand that certain members of our community believe that dog owners are putting an additional tax on our meager town budget. For that reason, I have always and will continue to support a fee-based system for dog owners that will help defray the cost of “rangers” or other expenses incurred. But if I have to pay more, then I expect the respect and support of the town to be able to walk my dog in a fashion that is conducive to both my family’s and her mental, physical and emotional good health. — Stephen, Margie, Lindsay and Savannah Weil, Bailey Road
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Letter: Help Arlington move forward
By Susan R. Doctrow
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

I urge my fellow Town Meeting (TM) members to support Article 36, allowing limited off-leash recreation for responsible dog owners. I last wrote to the Advocate on this issue in 2007, supporting the Green Dog Plan. In 2008, with others, I founded Arlington Dog Owners Group (A-DOG), whose petition for legal off-leash recreation has been signed by over 900 Arlingtonians.

The Green Dog Plan was narrowly defeated at TM in 2009, with concerns including its complexity. This year, the town established a Dog Park Task Force, to explore possible fenced dog parks, which have been legal here for seven years without positive action. A member of this task force, I feel its goals complement those of Article 36.

As I wrote in 2007, we need “an intelligent alternative to Arlington’s excessively rigid leash bylaw. We dog owners should no longer be made to feel like criminals in our own community, simply for trying to maximize the health, happiness and longevity of our family pets through exercise and socialization. Public parks belong to all of us, and all users should be able to share the benefits of these open spaces in a mutually respectful manner.”

Under Article 36, we propose early morning off-leash recreation under effective owner control, with several excluded sites and, most important, with Parks and Recreation Commission authority to exclude any other sites. While this adds much flexibility, and is consistent with its role in other municipalities, some have voiced concerns that the commission would not allow public input or is otherwise not to be trusted. Our proposal is conservative compared to other bylaws (e.g. Lexington, Bedford, Burlington, Wellesley) allowing dogs off-leash in virtually all parks at all hours.

With one very thoughtful dissenting vote by Selectman Kevin Greeley, the Board of Selectmen voted “no action” on Article 36, reporting to TM that “behavior of dog-owners who routinely violate the leash law needs to change before a bylaw amendment should be considered again.”

With due respect to those four selectmen, this penalizes responsible dog owners for the actions of the irresponsible few. As noted by one supporter, driver’s licenses are not denied to all because some drivers cause accidents. The Parks and Recreation Commission subsequently voted to support our proposal, noting its simplicity and reasonableness. I hope that TM agrees, helping Arlington to finally move forward on this issue. — Susan R. Doctrow, Westminster Avenue
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And, in support of the important and complementary work of Arlington’s Dog Park Task Force, to create fenced Off Leash Recreation Areas:

Letter: Essential to dog’s health
By Alice Bouvrie
GateHouse News Service
Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 06:30 AM
Arlington, Mass. —

It is essential to the health, happiness and well being of all our citizens in Arlington that we have a fenced in dog park where our dogs and owners may socialize and exercise. There are ramps for our handicapped citizens, buzzers at the lights for our sight-impaired citizens, bike paths and lanes for our cyclists, and we should have designated dog parks for our pets and owners.

When as many of our citizens as possible are justly accommodated, we all do better as a community. I hope that we can implement a viable dog park in Arlington soon, and from there we can make adjustments. — Alice Bouvrie, Woodside Lane

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AND a new set from the following week, May 6. Six letters from proponents of Article 36 and two from apparent opponents:

Letter: Wonderful compromise
By Amanda Sullivan
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:15 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I am writing to ask the Town Meeting members to support Article 36, which would allow Arlington dogs to be off leash in local parks specified by the Parks and Recreation Commission until the hour of 9 a.m.

My husband and I are Arlington residents who have lived in town for more than six years, and have been dog owners for more than four years. Over the years, we have met many Arlington dog owners and their family pets. I have been very impressed with Arlington residents’ behavior as dog owners — making sure their dog is under voice control and well behaved as well as picking up their dogs waste.

Our dog is friendly, happy and well behaved largely because we make sure she is exercised daily. I find it very frustrating to not be able to play fetch with my dog in a park in my own town, especially when so many neighboring towns, such as Burlington, Lexington and Cambridge, have dog parks or reasonable off-leash laws. Many of these towns only allow their own residents to utilize the dog parks, making it impossible for Arlington residents to legally allow their dogs off leash for socializing and exercise purposes.

I urge Town Meeting members to vote in favor of article 36; it is a wonderful compromise that would Arlington dog owners and our family pets to finally be able to use some of the parks and facilities our tax dollars are paying for in a controlled manner. — Amanda Sullivan, Ronald Rd

*****
Letter: We can coexist
By Jennifer Stone
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:14 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I was thrilled to see the number of letters in favor of Article 36. As a responsible dog owner living and paying taxes in Arlington, I find it amazing that I cannot socialize, and exercise my dog legally in town.

I’ve heard the complaints of the mess it would create, and I ask you, have you seen a soccer field after a Saturday’s worth of youth games? The litter is everywhere, but no one reasonably expects games to be stopped because of the actions of the minority. The responsible dog owners are being penalized for the anticipated behavior of a few.

I lived in San Francisco for two years with my dog, near a small city park that was a major tourist attraction, (the ‘painted ladies’ Victorian homes border the park), and the dogs, residents, and tourists all coexisted. If a city as densely populated as San Francisco can figure out how to allow dogs some freedom, I can’t imagine how Arlington can not. — Jennifer Stone, Ridge Street

*****

Letter: The sky will not fall
By Iain Miller
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:04 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I’d like to urge Town Meeting to accept the very reasonable Article 36 provision for early morning off-leash exercise and socialization rights, at the discretion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

As one of the sponsors of this article, I’d note the recent unanimous support of the commission. Notably, this article also reflects feedback from the discussion at Town Meeting last year (at which the more complex Green Dog program was narrowly voted down, partly on grounds of complexity), and culminates about eight years of efforts by many responsible dog owners in our town.

While a task force has indeed been established to consider a very limited number of fenced areas, the reality is that such expensive facilities will likely be several years in the making, and not accessible to all. In the interim, I feel that it is long past time for Arlington to join our progressive neighbors such as Somerville and Lexington by taking an interim (no cost) step to de-criminalize a recreational activity that brings many neighbors together. I’ll confidently predict that the sky will not fall and we can all move on. — Iain Miller, Kensington Park
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Letter: Say ‘yes’ to Article 36
By Mary McCartney
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 03:01 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

The issue of off-leash dogs has been controversial for Arlington for a number of years, but I believe Article 36, which will be up for vote soon at Town Meeting, is a terrific compromise.

This article will allow dogs to be off-leash, under effective handler control, during early morning hours. It will allow the Parks and Recreation Commission the authority to exclude specific sites. And it specifically excludes school grounds and grounds near playground equipment.

This article is much more conservative than other surrounding communities. The parks are not heavily used during these hours, and I believe this article does a good job of balancing the needs of responsible dog owners with other park users.

The parks are a shared resource. Dog owners are taxpayers too. As a responsible dog owner myself, I value the time I spend with other dog owners, and enjoy that sense of community.

I encourage my fellow Town Meeting members join me in voting in favor of Article 36. — Mary McCartney, Town Meeting Member, Precinct 1, Michael Street
*****

Letter: Give us something to lose
By Jennifer Goebel
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:58 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

Give us something to lose

I am writing to express my support for off-leash recreation time for dogs as proposed in Article 36 of this year’s Town Meeting warrant. Right now, there is no way for Arlington dog owners to be responsible dog owners and follow the leash law.

We have learned a lot about canine behavior and health since this restriction was put into place many years ago, and we now know that off-leash time is important for not only the health of the dog, but also its socialization. A tired dog is a good dog. A well-socialized dog is a friendly, well-behaved dog. Common sense says that every one in this town has an interest in Arlington dogs being well-exercised and well-socialized, whether you love them or hate them.

What we have now is all stick and no carrot.

If the town votes against this rule — again — and we continue with the status quo, nothing will improve for anyone. Dog owners will continue to run their dogs off-leash whenever and wherever they think it’s appropriate and convenient because we have nothing to lose. Give us something to lose. — Jennifer Goebel, Sunset Road
******

Letter: An excellent approach
By Monique Chaplin
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:55 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I am writing to express my appreciation to the Parks and Recreation Commission for supporting Article 36, the “off-leash dog hours” article. I feel that Article 36 is a reasonable, reasoned approach to making our shared parks accessible to all users, in a way that is least disruptive to all.

I am the owner of a young and exuberant dog who has learned through socialization with other dogs, and consistent training, to be a good “citizen” among other dogs, while remaining under good voice control. I believe that Article 36, which leaves decisions about which parks and what hours should be determined “off-leash” is an excellent approach to making our parks accessible to responsible dog owners of Arlington.

I encourage our Town Meeting members to vote in favor of this article. — Monique Chaplin, Michael Street

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Letter: Kids before dogs
By Michael Jacoby Brown
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:52 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

To call unleashing dogs “green” is a sad misnomer. Allowing dogs to run free in Arlington will do nothing to “green” the town or the planet. When our public schools are facing a financial crisis and we are laying off teachers, spending any money on dogs (building fences for dog parks, etc.) puts dogs ahead of children. Does the town spend money on dogs before children?

If dog owners want “early morning” hours to allow their dogs to run free, “early morning” does not mean up to 9 a.m. From 7 to 9 a.m., many children are going to school or other activities. To put unleashed dogs in the path of children is not the way to go for our children’s safety. — Michael Jacoby Brown, Brattle Terrace
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Letter: Need to co-exist respectfully
By Mary Ellen Bilafer
GateHouse News Service

Posted May 06, 2010 @ 02:51 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I hope to present a unique point of view regarding the current leash law debate and Article 36, which proposes off-leash times in Arlington’s parks.

On Patriots’ Day, I took my leashed dog to Menotomy Rocks Park. As a Town Meeting member and dog owner, I’m aware of the efforts of the A-DOG Committee. I agree that dogs benefit from off-leash areas. I appreciate their efforts and understand the reasoning behind them. However, there are currently no legally established off-leash areas in Arlington. Why then, were almost all of the 15 to 20 dogs I came across off leash?

One can assume this was a fair representation of Arlington dog owners, and not an irresponsible minority as some suggest I have seen the same thing in several other parks around town. I wonder how many “non-dog” citizens avoid the parks for this reason?

When I politely informed a few owners of the leash law, I was consistently met with rudeness and indifference. As a lifelong resident of Arlington, I was disappointed to see such a selfish attitude from my fellow citizens. Not everyone should be subjected to a dog running at him or her in a public area when he or she has an expectation that all dogs will be leashed.

I love my dog but am not so arrogant to assume that everyone will love her as much as I do. There are some people who are very uncomfortable with dogs and it’s also a safety issue — especially when children are involved. No animal is 100% predictable — no matter how confident the owner is to the contrary.

If I choose, however, to go to an off-leash area, I accept these risks and know what to expect … I do not foist those risks onto others who haven’t decided to accept them. Some have suggested that it’s OK to break this law simply because it is unfair. I disagree. When/if off-leash areas are established, then it will be clear who can enjoy the parks freely, and when and where. Designating fenced areas is the safest and most clear-cut option in my opinion and allows for fair park usage for all.

It’s still unclear what will be decided at Town Meeting … but until the situation changes, we need to co-exist respectfully so that everyone can comfortably enjoy the parks. It’s simply unfair otherwise. — Mary Ellen Bilafer, Cutter Hill Road
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And, from May 13, two more in favor, none opposed:

Letter: Should not be limited
By Catherine Solovay
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 13, 2010 @ 05:53 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

I would like to express my support for Article 36 permitting limited places and times for off-leash exercise of dogs by responsible owners. Dog ownership is a responsibility, but one that can bring great joy to a family. It is also our responsibility to give our dogs appropriate exercise, and at the moment, I need to drive to another town daily in order to properly give my dog a run. I do not think that the pleasures and health benefits of dog ownership should be limited to families with cars, or wealth enough for an abundant fenced yard. I urge a vote in favor of Article 36. — Catherine Solovay, Kenilworth Rd.

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Letter: Building a community
By Lana Petersson
GateHouse News Service
Posted May 13, 2010 @ 05:52 PM
Arlington, Mass. —

This morning, while our dogs were playing, I had a great conversation with a fellow dog owner that made me realize why I support the limited off-leash laws. We didn’t talk about anything in particular, it was just nice to have company and meet someone new from the neighborhood. It put me in a good mood all day.

I left realizing why I care so much about the leash law: it creates congregation spots that create a great community, the same way a jungle gym does. I know people from all over East Arlington, and not just dog-owners, because my dog introduces us when we might not have otherwise approached each other. When we were looking to buy our first house, it was this feeling of community that kept us in the same neighborhood (literally, three streets down) as opposed to the more dog-friendly Cambridge. Some of this happens on leash, but if we’re out, it’s usually to get some exercise and we’re on the move.

I can be shy but love making connections, this is the reason why I love having a dog so much, and why I’m in big favor of a limited off-leash law that lets us all socialize together. I am especially in favor of limited times and places. The wonderful thing about community space like fields is bringing people together, in all different ways, at different times of day, and learning how to all share a space to build a healthy community for everyone involved. — Lana Petersson, Milton Street
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Substitute Motion on Article 36: Early Morning Off-Leash Recreation Under Certain Conditions

A Substitute Motion on Article 36 was submitted to Town Meeting, along with a supporting report written by a few of the (ever-increasing!) number of A-DOG members who are elected Town Meeting Members. It is expected to come up for a vote as early as May 3. The Report, including the text of the Substitute Motion, is reprinted here:

We support the following Substitute Motion under Article 36:

To amend Section 8 (“Animal Control”) of Article 1 (“Use of Areas under Control of Park Department”) of Title IV (“Public Areas”) and/or Article 2 (“Canine Control”) of Title VIII (“Public Health and Safety”) of the By-Laws so as to allow a maximum of three dogs per owner to be off-leash, under effective owner control, from park opening time until 9 am, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:

  • those lands directly abutting school properties;
  • within 15 ft of playground equipment;  and
  • by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

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The Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted (4-1) “no action” on our proposed motion under Article 36 at its March 22 hearing. The BoS has reported to TM that “behavior of dog-owners who routinely violate the leash law needs to change before a bylaw amendment should be considered again.”  With due respect to those 4 Selectmen, this penalizes responsible dog owners for the actions of the irresponsible few.  As noted by one supporter at the BoS hearing, driver’s licenses are not denied to all because some drivers cause accidents. Another concern voiced by one Selectman at the hearing was that there were no provisions to exclude out of town dog owners.  We respectfully take issue with this concern on two grounds. First, it is unlikely that many dog owners will drive to Arlington from other towns in the early mornings that we propose. And, even if some do, it is questionable that they will have much impact.  Second, our parks are public space.  Some of us from Arlington now use parks in Lexington, where dogs are allowed off leash.  We would hope to extend the same courtesy to our Lexington and other neighbors and, again, doubt that there would be much impact from outsiders at the proposed hours.  The BoS report also advises waiting to see what the Parks and Recreation Commission, through its “Dog Park Task Force” (called the “Green Dog Subcommittee” in the report), decides with respect to fenced off leash recreation areas.  We are very familiar with the work of this Task Force and, in fact, one of us is an appointed member.  As discussed further below, we believe that Article 36 complements the Task Force’s mission.

On April 13, the Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously (4-0) to support our proposed bylaw change, noting, for example, its simplicity and reasonableness, as well as its flexibility.  We hope that TM will agree with the Parks and Recreation Commission’s assessment and vote in favor of this Substitute Motion.

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Article 36 FAQ (Summary)

(See the following pages for full discussion)

 

  • Why propose this Article for the third year in a row?  TM transcripts describe the current leash law, enacted in the late 60’s, as being aimed at dogs “at large”, or roaming free. When it is used instead against owner-supervised dog play groups, it prevents dog owners from exercising and socializing their dogs, and from a community activity they themselves enjoy.

 

  • Why propose this Article when TM rejected the Green Dog plan last year?  This vote was narrow (88 opposed, 83 in favor), and the need and demand for legal off-leash recreational options continues.  Feedback from TM included comments that the Green Dog plan was too complex, and that many had favored the amendment to limit hours to mornings (by 10 am).  Article 36 addresses such experience and feedback.

 

  • Why isn’t it enough for dog owners to have the Town working on fenced off leash recreation facilities?  Even though Town has established a “Dog Park Task Force” to address this issue, it is not clear when or if there will be a sufficient number of fenced off leash recreational areas (OLRA) to serve Arlington’s dog owner community. Article 36 acts in parallel to the work of the Dog Park Task Force.

 

  • Why the proposed hours of “park opening time until 9 am”? Arlington parks are used quite sparsely early in the morning. The intent of our proposed hours is to be conservative. In several other MA towns dogs are allowed off-leash, under effective control, in virtually all parks at all open hours.

 

  • Why the phrase “effective owner control”?  This requires that only dogs accompanied by their owner, and under control, would be allowed off-leash. Other MA town bylaws have similar wording (“complete and effective control”, “effective command”, etc.).

 

  • Why “lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission”?  These lands would exclude potential areas of concern, including the bike path, Town Hall gardens, cemetery, and conservation land.

 

  • Why “by specific exclusion by the Parks and Recreation Commission”?  This adds flexibility, avoiding the need for specific locations to be debated in TM. It recognizes and respects the role and the authority of Parks and Recreation Commission, appointed to make detailed decisions on use of our public parks.

 

  • Why not propose a pilot plan?  We trust that the Parks and Recreation Commission will act in good faith to implement a flexible bylaw such as this one.  It is essentially a pilot plan anyway, because the Commission can exclude any park, or all parks, at any time.

 

  • What will this cost the Town?  There should be no significant cost to the Town.  We already have an ACO to enforce the leash law, including distributing flyers describing the leash law. With last year’s decision to increase the license fee by up to 50% and impose late fees, dog owners are now being charged more, providing some extra revenue with no increase in privileges.

 

  • Why “a maximum of three dogs”?  For consistency with our town bylaws that allow up to three dogs per household, and with similar limits specified in other off-leash programs.

 

 

 

Article 36 Substitute Motion — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): 

 

Why propose this Article for the third year in a row?

Based on TM transcripts, major provisions of our current leash law were voted in at TM in the late 60’s. Concern was primarily with dogs “at large”, or roaming free.  It was not intended to be used, as it is today, against owner-supervised dog playgroups, which were uncommon, if not nonexistent, in that era. The behavioral benefits of well-exercised, well-socialized dogs are now well accepted by animal behaviorists, dog trainers and others.  In addition, meeting with their neighbors to exercise and socialize their dogs together is a community activity much enjoyed by dog owners, as the response to A-DOG’s and Green Dog committee efforts has demonstrated.  Over 900 Arlington residents, to date, have signed A-DOG’s petition in favor of off-leash recreation for responsible dog owners in Arlington.  Many other communities in MA and across the nation have recognized the needs of their tax-paying dog-owning residents by modernizing their leash laws.  It is time that Arlington did so, as well – there has been at least 8 years of work on this issue in our town, with no implementation of any off-leash privileges.

 

Why propose this Article when TM rejected the Green Dog plan last year?

The need and demand for legal off-leash recreational options continues.  Last year, with their recommended vote to TM, the BoS indicated approval of the spirit of the Green Dog plan, to enable responsible off leash recreation at certain times in certain parks. The vote at TM was very close (83 affirmative to 88 negative).  Several TM members later told us that they felt the measure would have gained more support if the Green Dog Plan were not so complex and/or if the narrowly defeated last-minute proposed amendment for only morning hours (up to 10 am) had passed.  We can never know for sure if that is true, but it is our recollection that nearly half of TM supported the amendment to restrict the Green Dog Plan to mornings. Two years ago (2008), TM voted “No Action” on an Article similar to Article 36 (#28).  At that time, the primary reason cited, including in the Selectmen’s recommendation for “no action”, was the need to give the Green Dog committee time to do its work. Nonetheless, even then, several TM members supported a substitute motion for positive action, with some proposing amendments that would enable their support. Our Substitute Motion under Article 36 addresses what we learned from experience and feedback from other TM members, on both previous attempts.

 

Why isn’t it enough for dog owners to have the Town working on fenced off leash recreation facilities?

Fenced off leash recreation areas (OLRA) have been legal in Arlington for 7 years, but the Town has yet to establish any.   (In contrast, in Somerville, a Dog Owners Task Force formed in 2004, the first OLRA was constructed in 2006, and today there are 2 operational OLRAs, 1 more in advanced planning, and 2 more under serious consideration. The Somerville Open Space and Recreation Plan, 2008-2013, highlights off leash recreation in Somerville as a “Success Story”.)  Many dog owners, including us, are encouraged that the Town has now established a “Dog Park Task Force” to identify possible sites and work out details.  Some of us have been named to this Task Force and have begun working constructively with fellow members.  Still, such OLRA are costly, each at least $200,000, based on the experiences of Boston and Somerville, as well as other information gathered, so far, by our Task Force.  With budgetary and other constraints, it is not clear when there will be a sufficient number of fenced OLRA to serve Arlington’s dog owner community.  In addition, even if unlimited financial and open-space resources were available, a fenced OLRA is not appropriate for all neighborhood parks and for all users.   (Indeed some TM members indicated they did not support the Green Dog Plan in 2009 because it included fenced OLRAs.)  Other programs, most notably NYC’s very successful off-leash recreation program (http://www.nycoffleash.com/html/FAQ.htm) rely on a combination of dedicated fenced facilities at some parks and “shared hours” at others. We believe that the best solution for Arlington will also include both approaches, and feel that Article 36 works in parallel to the work of the Dog Park Task Force, with complementary goals.

 

Why the proposed hours of “park opening time til 9 am”?

As noted above, we learned from last year’s Green Dog debate in TM that morning hours were less controversial and that the motion to restrict hours to prior to 10 am is regarded as one that would have strengthened chances of passage.  In our proposal, hours are limited even further to end at 9 am.  In NYC, the default off-leash hours in shared-use parks are from 9 pm til 9 am, unless a park closes at night, as ours do.  This has apparently worked well for over 20 years in a very densely populated city.  Those of us who visit Arlington parks early in the morning know that they are used quite sparsely at this time.   We believe that the proposed hours would have minimum impact on park usage, and would give responsible dog owners the option to exercise and socialize their dogs before going to work and/or helping their children get to school.  The hours will not be optimal for all dog owners, but we believe that they will be useful to many. The intent of restricting hours in this proposal is to be conservative.  In several other MA towns (e.g. Lexington, Bedford, Burlington, Acton, Concord, Lincoln, and Wellesley) dogs are allowed off-leash, under effective control, in virtually all parks at all open hours.

 

Why the phrase “effective owner control”?

This requires that only dogs accompanied by the human owner, and under control, would be allowed off-leash.  Article 36 is not intended to provide an opportunity for dog owners to allow their dog to run “at large”, or to enable out of control dogs to run through private property, jump on people, attack other dogs, or otherwise cause problems.  Complaints about out of control dogs should be addressed by the Animal Control Officer (ACO), if necessary, as well as by peer pressure from other dog owners.  In other bylaws, similar wording is used, for example:

 

Acton:  “complete and effective control”

Brookline: “must control the animal”

Bedford:  “effective voice control”, “effective control of its owner”

Burlington: “obedient to command”

Concord:  “under the control of its owner”

Lexington:  “effective command”

 

Under this bylaw, owners who cannot or will not control their dogs would always be in violation.  Owners playing fetch with their dogs, supervising their dogs playing with other dogs, or conducting other harmless, enjoyable activities with their dogs prior to 9 am, would not.

 

Why “lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission”?

These lands would exclude potential areas of concern, including the bike path, Town Hall gardens, cemetery, and conservation land.  We learned that, in Arlington, this is preferable to the overly broad term “open spaces” that was proposed in 2008, though the term is used in other town bylaws, most notably Bedford’s (below).  Interestingly, Bedford’s bylaw also distinguishes a dog “at large” from one under “effective control of its owner”.

 

From Town of Bedford bylaws, Article 42.5.1 Dogs Running at Large (Leash Law Provisions):

“No owner or keeper of any dog shall permit their dog to run at large at anytime. An owner or keeper of a dog must accompany and restrain the dog on a leash or accompany with leash in hand and maintain effective voice control of the dog while off their own property. An obedient dog which is under the effective control of its owner may be permitted to be unleashed in Town-owned open spaces within the Town. Dogs must be on a leash on bike paths and at public events. No dogs are allowed in cemeteries. The provision of this paragraph shall not apply to a guide dog or service dog while actually engaged in the performance of its trained duties.”

 

Why “by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission”?

This adds flexibility, avoiding the need for specific locations to be debated in TM. It recognizes and respects the role and authority of the Parks and Recreation Commission.  In Brookline, the bylaw change that passed at TM allowing a Green Dog Plan was general (see below), leaving it up to the Parks and Recreation Commission to establish details of off-leash use and, importantly, to modify this use whenever needed.  We believe that Parks and Recreation Commission’s role should be accorded similar respect and authority in Arlington, and that it is not necessarily a productive use of TM time to debate details of implementation.  In Arlington, we have a Parks and Recreation Commission, appointed by our Town Manager, with approval by our elected Selectmen, to make detailed decisions on use of our public parks.

 

From Town of Brookline Bylaws, SECTION 8.6.7(a) RESTRAINT OF DOGS:

“However, in areas officially designated as designated off

leash area by the Park and Recreation Commission, or its

designee, a dog shall be allowed to be off the leash under

the following conditions…”

 

Why not propose a pilot plan?

We believe that there is no need to make this a pilot plan, subject to even more TM debate next year and in subsequent years. We trust that the Parks and Recreation Commission will act in good faith to implement a flexible bylaw such as this one.  It is essentially a pilot plan anyway, because the Parks and Recreation Commission can act to exclude all parks, though, we are trusting them not to do so.  Under this bylaw, the Commission might, for example, choose to exclude a park it deems “controversial”, conduct a public review process and, potentially, designate specific sub-areas only, or no areas at all, for morning off-leash recreation.  And, of course, TM can vote in a more restrictive leash law in future years.

 

What will this cost the Town?

As we discussed, as Article 36 proponents, with the Finance Committee, we believe there will be no significant cost to the Town.  We already have an ACO to enforce the leash law, and we understand that he provides a flyer with the current leash law to the public. This flyer could be modified and could also be given to dog owners when they register for licenses. Also, details, including exclusions established by the Parks and Recreation Commission, could be available on the Town Website. Community groups such as A-DOG and Friends of parks groups can help by keeping their members informed.  These groups might also choose to work with the Town to donate signage or other items to personalize their neighborhood parks. It is worth noting, too, that in response to an Article submitted to TM last year by an opponent of off-leash recreation, the Town raised the dog license fee by up to 50%, moving it from the median to the highest range in the Commonwealth (based on numbers available in spring, 2009), and imposed a costly late-fee.  That Article’s proponent had suggested that such fees be used for “enforcement”.  While specifying such use was ruled illegal, it is nonetheless clear that dog owners are being charged substantially more this year than last year, providing some extra revenue with no increase in privileges.

 

Why “a maximum of three dogs”?  This was added for consistency with our town bylaws that allow up to three dogs per household, and with similar limits in other off-leash programs. 

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Talk to us at TM:  Mary McCartney (Pct 1), Sue Doctrow and Jennifer Goebel (Pct 21), Ann Smith (Pct 17), BethAnn Friedman (Pct 15), and Andrew Fisher (Pct 6)

 

Website:  www.arlingtondogowners.org.  Board of Directors:  Susan Doctrow, Andrew Fisher, MaryAnna Foskett, Brenda Kokubo, Mary Mangan, Carrie Moore, Gian Schauer, Gerald Silberman, Ann Smith, Roslyn Smith, Judy Weinberg

Article 36 to allow dogs off leash in the mornings: Board of Selectmen recommend “no action” while the Parks and Recreation Commission is supportive

The following proposed vote for Article 36 was presented by A-DOG representatives to the Arlington Board of Selectmen on March 22 at about 10 pm:

The signers of Article 36 are proposing the following wording:.

VOTED:

To amend Section 8 (“Animal Control”) of Article 1 (“Use of Areas under Control of Park Department”) of Title IV (“Public Areas”) and/or Article 2 (“Canine Control”) of Title VIII (“Public Health and Safety”) of the By-Laws so as to allow dogs to be off-leash, under effective owner control, from park opening time until 9 am, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:

those lands directly abutting school properties;

within 15 ft of playground equipment;

and by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4 – 1 against recommending any action on this Article. This means they will direct Town Meeting not to vote for any changes to the leash laws. However, Substitute Motions can be presented, and Town Meeting can vote in opposition to the Selectmen’s recommendation.  (As it did, for example, in last years’ Article to allow Arlington residents to keep hens, which the Selectmen opposed.)

Subsequently, at an April 13 hearing, the Arlington Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously (with 4 out of 5 Commissioners present) to support the Article that A-DOG representatives will present to Town Meeting, to allow dogs off leash, under effective owner control in the mornings. It will be a Substitute Motion since the Board of Selectmen did not vote to support it (see below for more information). Parks and Recreation Commissioners commented that it was a sensible approach, and gave them the flexibility to further modify park use by dog owners, as needed.

At Town Meeting, which begins on April 26, the proposed vote will be introduced as a Substitute Motion. We hope that the support of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the efforts of our members to contact their elected Town Meeting Members, will help to overcome the disadvantage of the Selectmen’s lack of support.

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A recording of the Board of Selectmen Hearing (in three Parts, each 7 to 8 min) can be found at the A-DOG YouTube site , with a written summary below:

Guide to Videos from Board of Selectmen hearing on Article 36

Please note: These videos are unedited, except for being divided into three parts to meet YouTube maximum video requirements. Total time for the three is approximately 22 min.

This is the Arlington Dog Owner Group’s (A-DOG) proposed vote under Article 36 under discussion:

To amend (appropriate sections) of the By-Laws so as to allow dogs to be off-leash, under effective owner control, from park opening time until 9 am, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:
those lands directly abutting school properties;
within 15 ft of playground equipment;
and by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Part 1:

1. Presentation of Article 36 proposed vote by three proponents:

Mary McCartney (TM member, Pct 1): reads proposed vote and reviews its assets, including only early morning hours, requirement for owner control, and flexibility for the Parks and Recreation to make additional changes
Ann Smith (TM member, Pct 17): presents petition in favor of off-leash recreation signed by 900 Arlington residents, supplying list of these names to the Selectmen
Susan Doctrow (TM member, Pct 21): discusses why the proposal is relatively conservative, citing leash laws in other MA communities as examples; she also says that it is complementary to the work of the Dog Park Task Force (on which she’s also serving) currently evaluating possible fenced parks

2. Selectman Clarissa Rowe recommends that the Board vote “no action” and this is seconded by Selectmen Jack Hurd and Diane Mahon.  While commending A-DOG’s efforts, Ms. Rowe says that A-DOG must continue to educate dog owners to be more responsible before anything like this will be acceptable.

Part 2:

1. For continuity, repeat of final lines (Part 1) from Selectman Rowe and “no action” motion

2. Selectman Diane Mahon raises concerns that out-of-towners will come to Arlington to use its parks for their dogs’ off-leash recreation. Any plan like this should address ways to exclude outsiders, if possible.

3. Ann Smith and Susan Doctrow rebut this concern:
Which towns and cities will such dog owners come from? For example, Somerville and Lexington already have facilities and provisions for off leash recreation. (Ms. Mahon’s answer to this included Cambridge and Boston).
• Only early morning hours are proposed. People need to get to work or their kids to school and are unlikely to have time to drive very far. And, even if they do, the parks are virtually empty at such hours so the impact, if any, is questionable.

4. Susan Doctrow further comments on Ms. Rowe’s statement that Arlington is too densely populated for this proposal, with a discussion of the successful off leash recreation program (over 20 yrs in operation) in New York City. Ms. Rowe answers that NYC has more parkland, and that the off-leash areas are further from residences, citing her visit to her daughter in NYC.

5. Public commentary begins, with Article proponent James Goebel, explaining that this proposal makes sense, and is much less complex than the Green Dog plan that Town Meeting voted against last year.

6. Article proponent Deborah Goldsmith states the need for a leash law change such as the one being proposed, for example, to help dog owners raise well-trained and behaved dogs. She discusses why the proposal with limited hours is reasonable. She mentions, in particular, how unproductive it is to have it be illegal to even use a 26 ft training leash. She also says that she believes it is time, and that another year without doing something will not help the situation.

Part 3:

1. For continuity, repeat of final lines (Part 2) from proponent Deborah Goldsmith

2. Article proponent Ellen Kravitz addresses Ms. Rowe’s comments that it is incumbent on all dog owners to educate, and correct the behavior of, irresponsible dog owners before there can be any change to the leash law. She says that dog owners are being held to a standard of perfection that is not expected of other groups. For example, even though there are dangerous traffic accidents, nobody says that other drivers cannot be allowed to have drivers’ licenses until all drivers behave responsibly. Similarly, sports events are not cancelled because a few park users litter during such activities.

3. Article proponent BethAnn Friedman (TM member, Pct 15) stressed that last year’s vote at Town Meeting against the Green Dog plan was very close (88 to 83), indicating that there is wide support for allowing dogs off leash under certain conditions. Ms. Rowe said that a proposal such as this can still be presented as a Substitute Motion at Town Meeting, even though the Selectmen will vote against supporting it.

4. Article opponent Mustafa Varoglu (TM member, Pct 8) says that he supports off-leash recreation under certain circumstances, and also is a member of the Dog Park Task Force. But, he doesn’t support this proposal because it leaves too much decision in the hands of Parks and Recreation Commission instead of in the public and the hands of the Board of Selectmen. He did not like the previous Green Dog plan, and raised concerns about the views of this Commission, stating 3 members of the Parks and Recreation Commission were members of the Green Dog committee. (This is not correct, to our knowledge. Only one individual, Leslie Mayer, is part of both Parks and Recreation Commission and Green Dog Committee. As in other communities, the Parks and Recreation Commission is appointed by the Town Manager, with oversight from the Board of Selectmen to decide on details of park usage.)

5. The Board of Selectmen issued their final vote against A-DOG’s proposal under Article 36. Selectman Kevin Greeley (Chairman of the Board of Selectmen) voted against his colleagues. He explained that, like last year, he feels that a lot of work has gone into this effort by the Green Dog committee, and that it deserves a discussion at Town Meeting. However, the vote was 4 to 1, so it is “no action”. Mr. Greeley said we must keep talking about this issue, and joked that he wants to see all 900 petition signers at the Town Meeting when this is discussed!

Lexington Speaks out about Unleashed Dogs in Willard’s Woods

Willard's Woods
(Photo by Scott Goldberg of AM DEW Photos, Lexington)
(editorial Intro by S. Doctrow)  As many of you know, unlike Arlington, Lexington enjoys a modern leash bylaw, whereby dogs are allowed off leash under owner control.  One of the favorite recreational spots for dog owners from Lexington, as well as surrounding towns including ours, is the conservation land known as Willard’s Woods. Currently, there is controversy over dog recreation at Willard’s Woods, fueled primarily by complaints from abutters, complaints not only over dog owners using Willard’s, but also over Willard’s users parking their cars on the abutters’ street.  In response to such complaints, the Lexington Conservation Commission has held hearings and is reportedly leaning toward requiring dogs to be leashed on this property.  I attended one public meeting, in which a member of the Commission said that their primary concern is not with the interest of residents who enjoy recreational use of this space but, instead, with protection of the land.  Lexington dog owners, who have enjoyed a reasonable off-leash policy in their town for many years, are speaking out against this threat to take away a favorite venue for responsibly exercising and socializing their dogs.   (This story is an all  too familiar one to we A-DOG members, unfortunately.  In our town, we have faced several examples of opposition by abutters who seem to believe that they have the right to control the use of our public land, only because they live next to it).
The editorial page of the Lexington Minuteman (Feb 4) reported being “inundated” with letters supporting off-leash recreation. A selection of letters was published, reprinted in its entirety below.  If you are a responsible dog owner in Lexington, or a neighbor who enjoys taking your dog to Willard’s Woods for exercise and socialization, please speak out by writing to the Conservation Commission and to the Lexington Selectmen, your elected officials if you are a Lexington voter.  (Also write to candidates for Selectman in the upcoming election to find out where they stand.)  The Conservation Commission will reportedly vote on this measure February 23 at their meeting.  The meeting is currently scheduled for the Lexington Selectmen’s meeting room in Town Hall, but might be moved to accommodate the large turnout expected.  We will try to keep an update on the meeting on the front page of our website, but please contact us by email for the newest information on it.  If you want to get involved in a new Lexington based dog owners group (“LexiDOG”), please write to us and we’ll put you in touch.
Please note that Leslie Goldberg, a spokesperson for Lexington Dog Owners, asked me to add a reminder that we must use natural resources like Willard’s Woods as responsibly as we can, to clean up after our dogs always.  In addition, Leslie has voiced regrets that Willard’s Woods is described as a “dog park” in some books and websites.  She is concerned that this has brought in people unfamiliar with the controversies and sensitive issues around its use.  In particular, she hopes that users will use extra care and remember that it is conservation land.
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From the Lexington Minuteman (Wicked Local online site)
Lexington —

Note to readers The Lexington Minuteman was inundated with letters this week about the upcoming Feb. 23, Conservation Commission hearing about whether dogs should be leashed at Willard’s Woods. There were too many letters to publish, however, here is a collection of snippets from the letters the newspaper received. We’ll have more snippets next week since we have received even more letters about the issue. The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23, Room G-15/Town Office Building, 1625 Mass. Ave. — Anthony Schinella, covering editor

Lexington conservation lands are supposed to be open to all. That is supposed to include everyone, even dog owners, but now we might as well stay home and walk our dogs down the street. You’ve decided that everyone else’s rights take precedence. You’ve been swayed by abutters who come in with photos of dog poop, and cry how their lives and health are being negatively impacted by cars on their street, and dogs in the conservation land next to their homes. — Frances Gillespie, Gleason Road

It seems the current compromise is to require dogs in Willard’s Woods to be leashed at all times. This is a simple and straightforward solution to many of our issues in this conservation area. Unfortunately, it is almost the same as banning dogs. I walk my dogs on leash on the streets, in the town center, and other areas. The joy of Willard’s was to allow my dogs off leash. — Mark Eykholt, Patterson Road

I am a conscientious dog owner and diligent about dog waste removal. I know that having to leash my dog at Willard’s Woods would stop me from using the space. When the rights of some are restricted, it is called discrimination. How can it be that a few people can disallow the many access to a public space and restrict their freedom? When one space becomes restricted what’s to stop the spread of restriction? — Sheri Foreman, Peachtree Road

We have been residents for 30 years, with and without dogs, and we treasure the freedom that our dogs have enjoyed. A small minority of owners may not be as responsible as they need to be, but to deny all dogs the opportunity to run free is unconscionable. They simply cannot get enough exercise if they are always leashed. — Pat and Audrey Sallese, Lowell Street

Of course the woods are a great resource for other types of recreational activity — jogging, hiking, etc. — but these activities are generally not ones in which one meets, converses with, and gets to know other park users. The nature of the experience with the dogs off-leash — in which we are letting the dogs socialize, run, play, etc. — fosters a type of camaraderie that is increasingly rare in today’s society, and it would be a great loss to our community were it to become unavailable. — Evan Ziporyn, Turning Mill Road

I am a Lexington resident and have been one for 42 years. I am also a dog owner. Although there are a few “bad dog” (or perhaps bad pet owners) the majority of the dogs are friendly and obedient. As stated on the Lexington High School auditorium wall … Lexington is the Birth Place of a Free America. Please allow our dogs to have a little bit of freedom as well. — Joanne Kaye, Peachtree Road

My own unscientific survey would estimate that 90 percent of people walking the park are dog owners; and I have never witnessed bad or aggressive behavior from any dogs. Most are off leash but under owner’s command, some are leashed, and the experience has been incredibly positive. With 44 percent of U.S. families owning a dog and the overwhelming majority of people walking in Willard’s Woods having a dog, it seems to me that restricting Conservation Land in Lexington to either leashed dogs or banned to dogs, would prevent the very people that enjoy and value the conservation land from using it fully. — Enrico Cagliero, Paul Revere Road

This ruling is prejudiced and unfair to the hundreds of dog owners and users of Willard’s Woods that maintain control over their dogs, pick up after their pets and obey the rules. It is a travesty of justice and fairness that a small number of people that break the rules will be allowed to take away the rights of the vast majority of law abiding citizens. A leash rule may be an easy answer but it is far from fair or right. — Douglas J. Luckerman, Outlook Drive

There are few places for a dog to vigorously exercise in Lexington, and walking on-leash would not fulfill that exercise requirement. Which brings up another source of irritation — the lack of sidewalks in Lexington neighborhoods. Clearly, wandering in the streets while walking the dog can’t be desirable. — Ann McCartan, Lincoln Street

I revel in the beauty of the landscape at different times of day, various weather conditions and all seasons. As a local artist I have painted over a hundred canvases of Willard’s Woods. Walking there is often the highlight of my day both because of the natural beauty and the camaraderie of spending time with other dog people and their pets. Being off leash is certainly the best part of my dog’s day. Her happiness while playing with other dogs and running after tennis balls is a joy to see. — Laurel Cook Lhowe, Percy Road

As an avid dog-lover and frequent visitor to Willard’s Woods I was appalled by the Conservation Commission’s decision. Being able to walk dogs off-leash at the Woods brings immense joy to so many people. Requiring leashes at all times would have the same effect as banning dogs as there would no longer be a reason to walk at Willard’s Woods versus down the street by our homes. The point of going to the Woods is for the dogs to have space to run freely and play with other dogs. — Sharon Olofsson, Hill Street

My husband and I take our dog over there for off leash walks and play time for the dog. It something we all really enjoy. If the dog is required to be on a leash it would defeat the purpose of our trip to Willard’s Woods to give the dog good exercise and socialization and well as for us to enjoy the beauty while we walk together. We leash our dog in and out of the woods and always clean up after him as well as observing the proper parking. It has always been a really nice experience meeting other people, with and without dogs. — Karen & John Buschini, Tower Road

The problem is those owners who do not pick up their dog waste. This is a small percentage but it is enough to cause great concern. Both dog owners and non-dog owners who enjoy the woods are disgusted by this behavior. How to solve it? Well certainly not by requiring dogs to remain on leash. Those that do not pick up will continue to do so whether their dog is leashed or not. Dogs off-leash behave much better than leashed dogs who often feel trapped and/or protective of their owners and can act aggressive towards other dogs. Any reputable dog trainer/professional will tell you this. — Dayle Ballentine, Tower Road

Holiday Pet Drive Sponsored by A-DOG Member Family

Our fellow member Briana Flynn wrote to us recently to ask that we help spread the word about a holiday pet drive she and her family are planning.  They are collecting donated items needed by local shelters.  Please contact Briana at <petdonations@yahoo.com> to ask how you can help.  Their flyer is reprinted below to give an idea of what is needed:

HELP PETS IN NEED THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Hello! We are a local family collecting the following items to donate to local animal shelters that are in desperate need of the following:
Bath Towels
Laundry detergent
Bleach
Plush toys
Rubber squeaky toys
Tennis balls
Dental Chews
Knotted rope toys
Rawhides/knuckle bones
Training treats
Phone books for small animals to shred
Cat litter
Copy paper
Paper towels
Toilet Paper
Dog beds
Distilled Water
3-tab manila file folders
Dishwashing liquid
Large trash bags
Hand sanitizer
Bowls
Cat and dog food
Rubbing alcohol
Scissors
Tape dispenser refills
Air fresheners
Radios
Pens
Old Crates
Collars
Leashes
If you have any of the above, please contact us at: petdonations@yahoo.com
We will pick up any of the above items that you can part with and will donate them to local shelters (MSPCA, Buddy Dog, ARL, Alliance for Animals)  in mid December.  THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!
Every little bit will help!

Prison Pups Screening, Oct 21 in Belmont: Fundraiser for Hearing Impaired Cambridge Teacher

Many of you may recall that A-DOG sponsored a very successful screening of Prison Pups in April, 2008. Here’s another chance to see it and to support an excellent cause. And, please be so kind as to forward this information to everyone you think might be interested!

On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, at 7 p.m. at the Belmont Studio Cinema, 376 Trapelo Road, Belmont, the Friends of Betty and Dexter will show the award-winning documentary, Prison Pups, to help raise funds so that Elizabeth Smith MacKenzie of Watertown may obtain a new hearing assistance dog.

MacKenzie, a special needs teacher with the Cambridge public schools, will get her hearing assistance dog from NEADS (the National Education for Assistance Dog Services) Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, the same organization that matched her with Dexter, her current hearing assistance dog. Dexter, who is ill, is over 12 years old and will retire soon.

MacKenzie explained that, “My dog works primarily for me, but also accompanies me to the classroom and sits for reading time, helps with counting and often comforts an upset child as needed. He has been an invaluable asset to the school room.”

NEADS, a Massachusetts non-profit, in 1976, pioneered the training of dogs to help people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, in the same manner as guide dogs assist the blind and people with limited vision. NEADS has now expanded its services to provide training for people with other disabilities also.

In 1998, NEADS began the Prison PUP Partnership in which inmates foster and train service dog puppies for the first year of the dogs’ training. The film, Prison Pups, tells the story of four inmates as they raise and train service dogs for the handicapped and hearing impaired at Concord Farm, Massachusetts, a minimum-security facility.

“Dexter, and before him, Chico,” MacKenzie said, “have been my ears for 25 years. They allow me to function independently at home, in the community and at work. They tell me the smoke alarm, teakettle, door knock, phone, etc. They do the same sounds at work, plus a different fire alarm. On the street they tell me if sirens are coming, and alert me to other environmental sounds that are above or below the sounds that my hearing aides can compensate for.”

She added: “My service dog allows independence in a way that gives me, a disabled person, control over my safety. Service dogs are more focused and reliable than any human companion. They are always available and willing to accompany me anywhere at any time.”

A donation of $25.00 for adults and $5.00 for students is requested for the screening. More information about NEADS may be viewed at http://www.neads. org/index. php.

Contributions for Betty may be made directly by going to:
http://www.neads. org/about_ us/client_ view.php? id=189

Fun and Success at the MSPCA Walk for Animals

Our A-DOG team had a wonderful day at the MSPCA Walk for Animals on Sunday, September 13 at the Boston Common.  This event was such fun! More important, it did so much to help the MSPCA, with at least a thousand dogs and owners participating, and approximately $300,000 raised. Our A-DOG team joined forces with other teams from the new Massachusetts Coalition for Dog Owners Groups (MassDOG), especially the team from Somerville’s somldog.  Our coalition of MassDOG teams is very proud to have raised a total of at least $4882 for the MSPCA!  We congratulate the somldog team, who won the friendly challenge with 17 team members and $2752 in donations.  Our A-DOG team made a strong showing, with 11 members and $1595 in donations.  We thank everybody who walked with us or sponsored us today.  Although the somldog team won the MassDOG challenge, they kindly shared their prize with us, delicious Taza chocolates made in Somerville.  Besides this yummy treat, their team also won a gift certificate from Arlington’s own Lakota Bakery, which also happens to be a Business Friend of A-DOG.

“The Buzz Around Town”: Arlington Speaks About Off-Leash Dogs

We thought it would be interesting to print a selection of publicly available commentary by residents of Arlington concerning the recent discussion of the Green Dog plan. What follows are unedited letters to the editor that originally appeared in the Arlington Advocate, as well as online responses from readers writing in on the newspaper’s blog. Others, feel free to post your own comments on our blog, as well as to paste in other publicly available commentary that you find. In the interest of fairness and accuracy, please do not edit others’ publicly printed comments but, instead, paste them (or entire pertinent excerpts) in their entirety.

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Letter: Off-leash law short-sighted
By Vera J. Bernacchi
Thu Mar 12, 2009, 06:30 AM EDT

Arlington, Mass. – There has been an increase in the number of off-leash dogs I have seen in the last few years. It is possible that all the talk about dog parks and free-range dogs has given encouragement to dog owners to set their dogs free all over Arlington. It is illegal. It is dangerous. And it is an abomination.

During a recent warm spell, as I was walking along Massachusetts Avenue in early evening, I saw more dogs that were off-leash than on. One young mother was petrified because a huge boxer raced across the avenue and stuck his head in her baby carriage. When I chastised the dog’s owner, he swore at me.

I have overheard some of these bold dog owners say that they are happy when the dog officer goes off duty for the day, so they can set their dogs free. Shockingly, many of these people evidently purchased their dogs knowing they did not have the proper facilities for them. Now they erroneously believe the people of Arlington are going to make up for their short-sightedness by providing space for their dogs to run and play and socialize.

I was bitten by a dog twice in my life. As a little girl just walking along my street en route to visit an ill neighbor, I was bitten by a dog — possibly because I showed fear as he raced toward me. Arlington did not have a leash law then. Thirty-five years later, I was bitten by another dog in Florida — possibly because I was carrying a puppy. Dog bites are shockingly painful and they are frightening because, while you are in excruciating pain, you immediately have to investigate the dog’s record of shots and past behavior.

I have spoken with many people in Arlington about the situation of all the off-leash dogs and they are livid about it. Please call the selectmen and your representatives on Town Meeting to share your opinions on this important subject. A couple of selectmen are running for re-election unopposed. However, you can express your opinion on this subject loudly and clearly by withholding your votes from them, if you feel they are about to work to take away your freedom of walking through Arlington without fear.
Vera J. Bernacchi

Massachusetts Avenue

Arlington Advocate Online comment by: gdcook1969
We are having a very valid debate in this town about how to accomodate dog owners – and accomodate then somehow we must. I find in sad that in this situation, where we need to cut a deal that will satisfy no-one, but find the best accomodation for all. The true extremists are those who would use words like ‘abomination’ to describe a dog off of a leash. I’ll remember to use it to describe the poor-of-sight drivers who tend to float down the middle of Mass Ave, taking up two lanes – perhaps we can ban them too..

In this issue, there are two levers we have – where and when. Where can a dog owner run their dogs, and at what times of day. There is an enormous set of options – 1 park, all parks, 1-2 hours a day, morning, evening, after dusk -and dog owners just seem to want something. The opponents here are the ones saying grant them nothing – not 1 minute of a day without a leash. No one here is proposing letting wolves run free in Arlington Center, foaming at the mouth, waiting to maul Vera as she walks out of the local coffee shop. Release in a controlled area, during a controlled time, with penalities justified for those that flout a more permissive law, is a reasonable outcome.

I sympathize with dog owners letting their dogs run off leash in quiet times (hint: wait till Vera is in bed, I suspect). A well regulated program may save Vera some of her concern (well, perhaps not.., but one can hope) – a dog would have to have up to date shots, its past behavior would be documented, identifying if the privilege should be taken away from that owner, etc. And while dog bites can be excruciatingly painful, most aren’t – I suspect Vera is a guilty of a bit of theatrics here.. and there are a lot of things in Arlington that can ‘bite’ more severely – auto collisions, food poisioning, crime, kids making wide u-turns on the Minuteman cutting in front of cyclists… but in the end, I suspect Vera’s freedom to ‘walk through Arlington without fear’ is a canard – fear to her is a cudgel used to enforce the opinion of a zealot..

************
Letter: Discontinue the hyperbole
By Iain Miller
Thu Mar 19, 2009, 06:30 AM EDT

Arlington, Mass. – I have read with interest a recent letter (March 12) in opposition to the town’s Green Dog proposals and find myself, once again, saddened by the tone and hyperbole employed. The letter in question alleges that the “people of Arlington” are not obligated to provide parks for people exercising their dogs off-leash. Of course, they do not — the writer should remember that our parks are multi-use and that their maintenance is provided by all taxpayers, including the thousands of responsible dog-owners of Arlington, who are of course also “people of Arlington.” No individual lobby group should be in a position to exercise a veto over legitimate use.

The letter also implies that off-leash dogs are more likely to bite. This is contrary to the published literature in this field, which documents that leashed dogs are twice as likely to bite, due to the higher stress levels and defensive reactions.

So, lets stick to the facts, discontinue the hyperbole, and be reasonable about all this. There is no “abomination” here (as the writer alleges) — only reasonable people trying to find a middle ground. Dog owners need a way to exercise and socialize their animal friends. This is a both an animal rights and a basic civil tolerance issue, which should not excessively vex a progressive town such as Arlington. Lets keep the debate civil and reasonable and find a middle ground, whether it is fenced dog parks or the hybrid Green Dog proposal currently on the table.
Iain Miller
Kensington Park

*********
Letter: Before voting, answer this
By Bob Radochia
Thu Mar 19, 2009, 06:30 AM EDT

Arlington, Mass. – After reviewing the Green Dog Pilot Project Proposal presented at the Feb. 23, 2009 selectmen’s meeting several times, I have come to the conclusion that the most manageable solution is to have four to six fenced in areas about the town. To allow unleashed dogs in unfenced areas where non-dog adults, children and dogs on leash may be present is unacceptable.

Thirteen locations seem excessive in comparison to the number of other recreational sites throughout the town. For example, we have:

· One swimming location

· One skating rink

· One outdoor skating location

· Three tennis locations

· Five baseball locations

· Twelve Little League/softball locations

· Twelve soccer locations

· Fifteen basketball locations

Before I could reconsider my position, I would need more clarification or answers to the following:

1. One of the intentions of this program to create many neighborhood sites and avoid having destination sites has not been met in my opinion. There are only two off-leash locations, Reeds Brook and Turkey Hill that are located east of Route 2A (Mass. Ave. and Summer St.). Dog owners in the Bishop and Thompson neighborhoods will most likely have to drive to an off-leash location. Selectman Kevin Greeley is farther away from an off-leash site than many residents of Belmont, Cambridge and Lexington.

2. Will the permit be issued to the dog owner or the dog?

3. Can the dog be accompanied to the off-leash site by another member of the family, a neighbor, or paid dog walker as long as the lanyard is displayed?

4. How many rangers would be required per off-leash shift?

5. Where did the number 1,800 dogs come from? The annual reports for the last three years list 1,031, 1,067 and 1,254 licensed dogs and this year there are 1,100 licensed dogs. If 600 dog owners purchased a permit, the proposed $40 fee is too low to meet the goal of $40,000. The $40 fee is not exorbitant compared to the fees in the hundreds of dollars parents must pay for extracurricular and out of school sports activities.

6. How will the unfenced areas be staked out or will the entire field be available for off-leash activities?

I urge you to not support this warrant article until a more manageable and acceptable solution can be presented.
Bob Radochia
Columbia Road

**********
Letter: Dog parks deserve a trial run
By Dick Smith
Thu Mar 19, 2009, 06:30 AM EDT
Arlington, Mass. – In 2003, Arlington’s Town Meeting voted to add a provision for fenced dog areas to the Town bylaws. The Park and Recreation Commission began discussing a proposal to take advantage of this fenced dog area provision, but because of pressure from neighbors who didn’t want this kind of area in their neighborhood, and because having only limited fenced in-area available would mean that dog owners throughout the town would all use that limited area, the idea was not followed through. This eventually led to the creation of the Town’s official Green Dog Committee

Before the Green Dog Committee came into being, FOCCA (Friends of Canine Companions of Arlington) and, more recently, A-DOG (Arlington Dog Owners Group), which now has about 350 members, were formed to promote responsible dog ownership. Now the Green Dog Committee, after studying the problem and holding hearings for two years, have made a recommendation for a one-year trial period, providing for small areas in 13 parks — including two fenced areas — throughout the town, to be used during limited hours, and by payment of $40 for a permit, for off-leash dog activity.

Those who have been following the discussion on the Arlington List realize that this is a sensitive issue with many strong feelings on all sides. But I think that there is virtually unanimous agreement that something must be done. To do nothing means that the present unhappy and unsatisfactory situation, for responsible dog owners and non-dog owners alike, will continue, and that the Green Dog Committee — if it doesn’t simply throw up its hands in frustration — must go back to the drawing board.

The Green Dog Committee’s proposal is a step in the right direction, and, as a Town Meeting Member, I expect to vote in favor of it.

Let’s wait and see how this pilot program works out. It isn’t perfect; I believe that there should be many more fenced areas. There will still be complaints from all sides, but if responsible dog owners cooperate, and if presently less-than-responsible dog owners are pressured to become responsible, hopefully we will find that the plan is in fact improving the situation. There are provisions for making changes during the trial period.
Dick Smith
Washington St.

******

Letter: Nothing Green About Off-Leash Dogs

Arlington, Mass. – If proponents of letting dogs run unleashed in Arlington want to change the law to allow this, they should call it what it is: A proposal to let dogs go unleashed. There is nothing “green” about unleashed dogs or dog parks. Proponents of unleashed dogs and this paper should stop this charade. The plastic used to scoop up the feces come from petroleum. Driving the dogs to the new unleashed parks will cause more carbon emissions. If this encourages more dog ownership, it will mean more dog food and there is nothing “green” about that. If new fences are made, a bigger “carbon footprint.” All the paper and ink on this subject, new signage for this proposal — nothing “green” about that.

Many in Arlington might approve of going “green” by lowering their use of resources and carbon emissions, but allowing dogs to run off leash does nothing to achieve this. So, please, if you want to run your dogs without leashes, just say that. Don’t try to fool me that this will help save the planet.

Michael Jacoby Brown
Brattle Terrace
******

Letter: Please vote no on letting Arlington go to the dogs

by Robert M. Kuhn and Darcy C. Devney

Thu May 14, 2009, 06:30 AM EDT.

Arlington, Mass. – Warrant Article 18 is not about neighborhood fenced dog parks for Arlington dog owners. This is strictly a proposal to license 1,000 dogs or more to run off-leash for hours every day in more than a dozen parks in Arlington.

Residents Opposed. Dogs (clean up/disturb others) was the third highest concern regarding the town’s recreational and open spaces in the Vision 2020 survey. When a dog park was proposed at Hill’s Hill, more than 500 neighbors signed a petition to protest.

Imaginary Boundaries. Proponents didn’t want to locate an unfenced Park Tower dog area next to Park Ave. because of the safety of their dogs. Any assurances that dogs will not violate the nonexistent barriers are false, so the entirety of 13 parks will end up being off-leash.

Unequal Sharing of Resources. For the benefit of less than 1,000 dog owners, more than a dozen parks are being taken over for several hours each day. People who want to avoid dogs (including dog owners whose leashed dogs have been harassed by other dogs) will be unable to use the 13 parks during off-leash hours. Also, there are no planned off-leash areas for almost half of Arlington’s land area.

Overrun by Non-resident Dogs. By law, non-residents must be permitted equal access to Arlington parks. About half the dog-walking users in Brookline are from out-of-town (in 2007, about half the fined violations were by non-residents). Cambridge has also had ongoing problems with non-residents. Arlington parks are already too highly recommended in “The Dog Lover’s Companion to Boston.” If this proposal is accepted, Arlington would have the most indulgent dog laws in the Metro Boston area. Arlington parks would be a magnet for dog owners and professional dog walkers.

Already not Working. As proponents admit, dogs are already running off-leash in Arlington parks. Already, some people have abandoned their local parks because of free-ranging dogs. Already, dog waste is not being picked up. Already, an estimated 700 dogs (out of 1,800) are not licensed. How would rewarding current illegal behaviors with less regulation result in improved behavior?

Worst Decision Ever Made. As the Brookline administrators admitted to the Arlington Selectmen, their definition of success is “nothing got worse” and there is “less illegal activity” because “it’s legal now.” A Brookline police officer told Arlington police that the program was “the worst decision we ever made.” Somerville officials also said, “opening parks for dogs off-leash was one of the worst decisions the city made,” according to Selectman Diane Mahon.

We like dogs, and believe that a few self-supporting, fenced dog parks (with posted capacity limits) could be a worthwhile amenity for dog owners in Arlington and the surrounding communities. But we don’t believe in unfunded fantasy fences. So we recommend that you call or e-mail your Town Meeting members about voting No on Warrant Article 18 (unfenced off-leash areas).

Robert M. Kuhn and Darcy C. Devney
Thorndike St.
******
The text of the above Advocate letter was incorporated into the following statement sent to Town Meeting Members prior to the vote on the Green Dog Plan:
Please vote NO on letting Arlington go to the dogs.
To: Town Meeting Members
Re: Warrant Article 18 (Bylaw Amendment / Animal Control)
Warrant Article 18 is not about neighborhood fenced dog parks for Arlington dog owners.
Dogs are already welcome on-leash throughout Arlington 24/7. This is strictly a proposal to
license 1,000 dogs or more to run off-leash for hours every day in more than a dozen parks in
Arlington. Please vote No on Article 18. Here’s why:
Residents Opposed or Unaware. Dogs (clean up/disturb others) was the third highest concern
regarding the town’s recreational and open spaces in the Vision 2020 survey.1 When a dog park
was proposed at Hill’s Hill, more than 500 neighbors signed a petition to protest.2 There have
been some neighborhood meetings, but the majority of Arlington citizens have no idea that their
personal use of local parks would be forever changed, and not for the better.
Imaginary Boundaries. The entirety of each of 13 parks will end up being off-leash, since
there is no way that the invisible limits would work. Proponents didn’t want to locate an
unfenced Park Tower dog area next to Park Ave, because of the safety of their dogs.3 Any
assurances that dogs will not violate the nonexistent barriers are false.
Unequal Sharing of Resources. For the benefit of less than 1,000 dog owners, more than a
dozen parks are being taken over for several hours each day. People who want to avoid dogs
(including dog owners whose leashed dogs have been harassed by other dogs) will be unable to
use the 13 parks during off-leash hours. Also, there are no planned off-leash areas whatsoever
in the area north of Massachusetts Ave in East Arlington or north of Summer Street/Washington
St. in the rest of Arlington – i.e., almost half of Arlington’s land area.4 So the stated goal of
neighborhood dog parks spreading the burden is obviously unmet.
Overrun by Non-resident Dogs. By law, non-residents must be permitted equal access to
Arlington parks.5 According to the administrators of the Brookline program, about half their
dog-walking users are from out-of-town6 (and in 2007, about half the fined violations were by
non-residents7). Cambridge has had ongoing problems because their off-leash areas are so
attractive to non-residents. Arlington parks are already too highly recommended in The Dog
Lover’s Companion to Boston.8 If this proposal is accepted, Arlington would have the most
indulgent dog laws in the Metro Boston area, and Arlington parks would be a magnet for dog
owners and professional dog walkers.
Already not Working. As proponents admit, dogs are already running off-leash in Arlington
parks. Already, some people have abandoned their local parks because of free-ranging dogs.
Already, dog waste is not being picked up. Already, an estimated 700 dogs (out of 1,800) are
not licensed.9 How would rewarding current illegal behaviors with less regulation result in
improved behavior? If the promised “peer pressure” by other dog owners doesn’t work now,
why would it magically work in the future? Enforcement of the current leash laws, Warrant
Article 21 (Gated Dog Parks), and Warrant Article 23 (Increase Dog Licensing Fees), are
efforts to mitigate the current situation. Legalizing more dogs off-leash (whether or not
enforcement is increased) would create more problems than it solves.
Worst Decision Ever Made. The results of these programs in other towns are clear. As the
Brookline administrators admitted to the Arlington Selectmen, their definition of success is
“nothing got worse” and that there is “less illegal activity” because “it’s legal now.”10 A
Brookline police officer told Arlington police that the program was “the worst decision we ever
made.”11 Somerville officials also said, “opening parks for dogs off-leash was one of the worst
decisions the city made,” according to Selectman Diane Mahon.12
We like dogs, and believe that a few self-supporting, fenced dog parks (with posted capacity
limits) could be a worthwhile amenity for dog owners in Arlington and the surrounding
communities. But we don’t believe in unfunded fantasy fences. So please vote NO on Warrant
Article 18 (unfenced off-leash areas).
Sincerely yours,
Alan Frank, Pct 1
James B. Crouch, Pct 2
Alia-Anor Akaeze, Pct 3
Mary Beth Wilkes, Pct 3
Julie Chamberlin, Pct 4
Darcy C. Devney, Pct 4
Robert M. Kuhn, Pct 4
George Laite, Pct 4
Aram Hollman, Pct 6
Aileen Gildea-Pyne, Pct 8
Andrea Hodgson, Pct 8
Anne Murray, Pct 8
Catherine Bieber, Pct 9
Meghan Elledge, Pct 9
Nanci Ortwein, Pct 9
Katharine Daley Fennelly, Pct
10
Paul F. Fennelly, Pct 10
Anne D. Kenney, Pct 10
Mustafa Varoglu, TMM Pct
10
Matthew Hanley, Pct 11
Jerri Newman, Pct 11
Richard Newman, Pct 11
Charles Bryant, Pct 12
Janet Bryant, Pct 12
Heather Bryant Mckenney,
Pct 12
David J. Lewis, Pct 14
Craig Burgess, Pct 16
Suzanne Burgess, Pct 16
John Belskis, TMM Pct 18
Jeanne Leary, Pct 19
Bernadette McGonagle, Pct
19
Ed McGonagle, Pct 19
Barbara Jones, Pct 20
Cathy Joyce, Pct 21
(Footnotes:)
1 2007, 17% of Arlington households.
2 Presentation at Selectmen’s Meeting, 10/17/2005.
3 Green Dog Meeting, 01/22/2009.
4 Arlington Green Dog Proposed Locations Map, revised 3/30/2009.
5 Selectmen’s Meeting, 3/30/2009.
6 Presentation at Selectmen’s Meeting, 3/23/2009.
7 Brookline Tab, 05/28/2008.
8 Dog Lover’s Companion to Boston, 4th Edition, 2006.
9 Arlington Green Dog Proposal & Stephanie Lucarelli (Town Hall)
10 Presentation at Selectmen’s Meeting, 3/23/2009.
11 Arlington Chief of Police F. Ryan, memo 3/4/2009.
12 Arlington Advocate, 07/26/2007
*********************
The following Letter was sent to Town Meeting in Response:

In Response to “Please Vote NO on Letting Arlington Go To The Dogs”:

The report with this title, signed by 34 Arlington residents, was distributed to Town Meeting members by email on May 12, 2009.   Among the reasons listed for opposing Article 18, the Green Dog plan, this document alleges “clear” negative results with off-leash dog recreation in two other communities.

The paragraph in question reads:

Worst Decision Ever Made.  The results of these programs in other towns are clear.  As the Brookline administrators admitted to the Arlington Selectmen, their definition of success is “nothing got worse” and that there is “less illegal activity” because “it’s legal now”.  A Brookline police officer told Arlington police that the program was “the worst decision we ever made”.  Somerville officials also said, “opening parks for dogs off-leash was one of the worst decisions the city made”, according to Selectman Diane Mahon.”

*******

It seems unlikely that the Brookline Green Dog program is widely regarded as being the “worst decision ever made”, given that it was made permanent by Town Meeting after its pilot period of testing and adjustment.  Of course, individual town employees such as this officer are entitled to opinions that differ from those of Parks and Recreation administrators, as well as from the positive views of the two Parks Commissioners who appeared before our Board of Selectmen last March.  I have personally discussed the Green Dog plan with Brookline’s former Director of Recreation and the present Parks and Open Space Director.  Both were quite clear with me that they regard the Green Dog program as being beneficial to the community.  In fact, Robert Lynch, the former Director of Recreation and the first official to administer the Brookline Green Dog plan, told me on the phone that he had predicted the Green Dog plan would never work.  Yet, he said, it succeeded beyond his imagination, with a very low number of complaints that he felt were readily addressed.  He credited this success in part to the highly effective “self-policing” and monitoring by responsible dog owners who volunteered to serve as his unofficial park liaisons.

To address the alleged failure of the Somerville program, I attach a copy of page 71 from the City of Somerville Open Space and Recreation Plan 2008-2013 (Draft, with final version due sometime this spring).  As shown in the Credits and Acknowledgements, also attached, the Mayor and many town employees and committee members, including those representing Planning, Recreation, Public Works, and Conservation, contributed to this document.  In it, Off-Leash Recreation in Somerville, which began in 2006, is touted as a “Success Story”, with third and fourth off leash recreation areas now being planned for that city. If, indeed, allowing off leash dog recreation was “one of the worst decisions the city made”, then it seems as though Somerville has been making some very good decisions!

Another concern cited in this Article 18 opponents’ report is that “If this proposal is accepted, Arlington would have the most indulgent dog laws in the Metro Boston area, and Arlington parks would be a magnet for dog owners and professional dog walkers.”  However, much more indulgent bylaws exist in several other towns, including one right next door:

Lexington
Section 2 of Article XXVII of the town’s General By-Laws requires that a person who owns a dog shall keep that animal under restraint at all times.
“No dog owned or kept in this Town shall be allowed to be off the premises of its owner or keeper except in the immediate restraint and control of some person by means of a leash or effective command. The owner or keeper of any such dog that is not restrained or controlled off the premises of its owner or keeper shall be punishable by a fine of up to fifty dollars or the maximum permitted by Section 173A of Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws, whichever is higher.”

Bedford
Article 42.5.1 Dogs Running at Large (Leash Law Provisions).
“No owner or keeper of any dog shall permit their dog to run at large at anytime. An owner or keeper of a dog must accompany and restrain the dog on a leash or accompany with leash in hand and maintain effective voice control of the dog while off their own property. An obedient dog which is under the effective control of its owner may be permitted to be unleashed in Town-owned open spaces within the Town. Dogs must be on a leash on bike paths and at public events. No dogs are allowed in cemeteries. The provision of this paragraph shall not apply to a guide dog or service dog while actually engaged in the performance of its trained duties.”

To date, over 671 Arlington residents, dog owners as well as non dog owners, have signed the Arlington Dog Owners Group (A-DOG) petition requesting off-leash recreation opportunities for responsible dog owners in our town.  (As of today that number is 676).  On behalf of such constituents, and in the spirit of respectfully sharing our community open space, I urge my TM colleagues to support the Selectmen’s recommended vote under Article 18, the Green Dog plan, as distributed to TM on May 11.

Sincerely,

Susan Doctrow (Precinct 21)

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Getting to Yes or What’s in a Compromise for the Dog Walkers?

A message to responsible dog owners from A-DOG member Everett Shorey:

The Green Dog group in Arlington has clearly done a lot of work, thinking and hard bargaining to come up with a proposal for off-leash dog areas in and around Arlington. I listened to their presentation at the Selectman’s meeting the other day and came away humbled by the difficulty they have taken on and by the strongly held opinions on all sides of this issue.

Mostly I realized that we dog walkers are making an essential bargain: we are gaining legitimacy and, in return, we will need to obey the laws. I am as guilty as any other dog walker today. I flout the leash law and I do not expect anyone serious pushback from my fellow dog walkers. Most of us try to be courteous and not to disturb other park users but we assume a right to exercise our dogs in the park, we keep a communal lookout for the dog officer, etc. This is effective but breeds a culture of disrespect for the formal rules – we may have made our own informal rules but we are outside the formal system.

An essential aspect of the grand Green Dog compromise is that we are trading legitimacy during certain hours for an agreement to abide by all of the rules all of the time. Our culture that we can use the parks as and when we please is going to have to change. This is what we give up in the compromise. We get guaranteed access without watching out for the dog officer and without carping from other park users and we agree to play by the rules.

To me this is a fair bargain as long as we get reasonable space and time. Each of us in talking to the Selectmen, our Town Meeting Members and others in Arlington need to reach our own conclusion about whether the deal is a good one. However, once the deal is made, we are all bound by it.

The deal extends beyond just walking dogs in the parks. Other people want full enforcement of the rules. This means that we agree not to walk and exercise our dogs off leash in times and places not open under the rules. An open playground with no one on it will not be an ok exercise area. The deal also means being sure that we clean up after our dogs everywhere. It means that we create a culture of disapproval when others are off leash in the wrong times and places and when someone does not pick up after a dog,

This can be done. Even Manhattanites manage. Central Park is an off-leash zone in the early morning and the evening. People keep their dogs leashed other times. It is socially unacceptable in Manhattan not to pick up after your dog. You can actually walk along the street there without looking down. (I would not say the same about some otherwise clean major cities like Paris and Buenos Aires. Actually, a recent stroll down Charles Street along Beacon Hill was equally clean.) If those dreaded Yankee fans can do it, we should be able to also.

If we do not hold up our side of the bargain, this deal will collapse and we will be back to our old situation. The dog walking community needs to pick up to its side of the bargain.

Update on the Green Dog Program

The Green Dog program is being planned by a town committee including Leslie Mayer (Chairman of Parks and Recreation), Clarissa Rowe (Chairman, Board of Selectmen), and Joe Connelly (Director of Recreation). The Conservation Commission, Public Health, and Animal Control have also been involved in the program. This group is developing a pilot plan to allow dogs off leash, under certain conditions, in certain Arlington parks. When a plan is ready, it will be submitted to Town Meeting for a vote on whether to enact this change to the current leash law. (The current leash law does not allow dogs to roam “at large”, and specifies a 6 foot leash. As it is currently enforced by Animal Control, even owner-supervised dogs, or dogs receiving “recall” training with a longer leash, are in violation and their owners are subject to ticketing.) Last year, several Green Dog public meetings were held to introduce residents to the Green Dog concept and to allow them to provide input on a draft plan. Opponents of dogs off leash, as well as proponents, attended these meetings and/or submitted suggestions to members of the committee. Members of the Green Dog Committee decided, as a result of all the concerns they’d received, that last spring’s Town Meeting was too soon to propose a change to the leash laws. Some changes were made to the plan and another series of meetings were held. With input from these meetings, it is it is now anticipated that a plan will be submitted to Town Meeting for a vote in spring, 2009. This plan could be further discussed and amended during Town Meeting, so there is still time to provide input to the Green Dog Committee as well as to your Town Meeting Members (see below).

Leslie Mayer provided the following update for this article: “Since Town Meeting 2008, we have continued to explore issues raised at last year’s neighborhood Green Dog Meetings, including enforcement, costs, hours, locations, and fenced area details. The next group of neighborhood meetings have been scheduled for Nov. 6, 13, 20 and Dec. 4 (if needed) at 7pm in the Senior Center. These meetings are intended to bring the neighborhoods in to discuss the limits and parameters of specific locations and to refine hours to better suit the needs of each site.”

These meetings, now completed, each focused on a specific area. (There was also a follow up public working meeting on January 22.)
November 6th: Mt. Gilboa, McClennen, Turkey Hill,Hills’ Hill, Hurd, and Res
November 13th: Spy Pond/ Hornblower, Spy Pond Park, Magnolia, Waldo and Thorndike
November 20th: Menotomy, Robbins, Water Tower, Ottoson Woods and Poet’s Corner
December 4: Revisiting areas named above, in particular, as requested by opponents of dogs off leash in the Summer St. area.

A-DOG members were urged to attend these public meetings and to provide input to Leslie and her colleagues. Many of you did, but so did many opponents. It is still important for A-DOG members to contact the Green Dog committee, preferably by email, to ask questions about the plan and to inform them of your opinions and needs regarding legal off leash hours and sites in Arlington’s parks, especially in your neighborhood parks. This will help to ensure that the final Green Dog program will provide responsible dog owners with off-leash exercise and socialization options that will best serve our needs. Send your questions and comments on the Green Dog plan to Leslie Mayer (blmayer@msn.com), Clarissa Rowe (clrowe@comcast.net), and Joe Connolly (jconnelly@town.arlington.ma.us).

Now that a vote on the Green Dog plan is likely this spring, A-DOG members are urged to contact their Town Meeting Members, including candidates for election on April 4. Discuss with them how you’d like them vote on this issue during Town Meeting. If your precinct has an open position, consider running as a write-in candidate in the town elections yourself! Feel free to contact us at arlingtondogowners@gmail.com for any questions about Town Meeting, or other aspects of the process.

More information on the Green Dog program, and on an October 6 meeting of the Board of Selectmen discussing dogs off leash, can be found at these links:

YourArlington

Arlington Advocate

A report on the November 6 meeting appeared in the Arlington Advocate . Comments only from opponents were quoted by the reporter, though those of us who attended observed that it was a more balanced meeting and that many excellent statements were made in support of allowing dogs off leash in our parks.

A Letter to the Editor by an A-DOG Member

by Iain Miller
Arlington resident and A-DOG member

Recently Published in the Arlington Advocate (Week of November 6, 2008):

“The Editor,
I applaud Leslie Mayer and her town committee for their continued efforts to advance the Green Dog program, with town meetings on this topic scheduled to begin again from November 6. The Green Dog proposals address the reasonable demands of concerned dog-owners for a more progressive policy than currently found in the archaic town bylaws. Specifically, enactment of limited off-leash provisions and/or establishment of dog parks will address the needs of all constituencies, including the basic exercise and socialization needs of the several thousand dogs in Arlington. As a progressive town, we must move beyond the current harassment of responsible dog owners by over-zealous enforcers, and adopt policies in line with some of our more enlightened neighboring towns. I’d like to draw readers’ attention to A-Dog, an organization which represents Arlington dog owners and friends (www.arlingtondogowners.org). This organization, of which I am a member, is committed to working with Green Dog program organizers in their efforts to advance responsible dog ownership and rights within our town parks and open spaces.
Iain Miller, Arlington, MA”