Jul 282011
New draft dog bylaw requires "physical control" by the ownerArt Campbell | The Groton Line

New draft dog bylaw requires "physical control" by the owner

Groton’s Dog Bylaw Committee kicked off a series of three public hearings on a proposed revision of the town’s canine control laws Tuesday (July 26) morning, when a handful of residents met with the committee in Town Hall.

After an attack by a Chesapeake Bay Retriever on a Groton resident last winter, citizens requested that the Board of Selectmen review the status of the town’s dog regulations, particularly for “aggressive” dogs. Town Manager Mark Haddad appointed Town Clerk Michael Bouchard, Groton Police Lt. James Cullen, Animal Control Officer Thomas Delaney, Dog Officer Susan Hogan, and Animal Inspector George Moore. The group began meeting in March, researched neighboring towns’ regulations, and crafted a revised bylaw with stricter rules. In particular, committee members proposed changes to the bylaw that includes a section about “dangerous” dogs and a requirement that all dogs must be physically controlled when on public lands. The draft is available on the town web site, at www.townofgroton.org. (Or this link — Ed.)

Pat Parker-Roach, of Main Street, recently adopted two boxers. At the meeting, he said he was concerned about the physical restraint specified in the bylaw. “I am not one to ignore laws, but I would hate for my dogs not to have the ability to run and play because of the bad behavior of a few knuckleheads in town.” Bouchard encouraged Parker-Roach to help craft language that would allow his dogs the freedom and flexibility he desires while still ensuring the safety of other citizens and their pets.

Bouchard was concerned that the committee had received so few comments. “Five comments have been submitted. Three think the bylaw should be tougher, one is just offering comments, and one thinks the bylaw should remain as is.”

People in the hearing spoke briefly about the idea of a Groton dog park. Hogan expressed concerns about Groton Place, as well as a town sponsored dog park. “If we establish rules and regulations for a dog park, then I can imagine more of my time spent responding to people complaining that there are those who are not following the rules of the dog park… The fact is, for the number of dogs we have in Groton, there have been very few dog incidents.”

Bouchard said that there are 1230 dogs now registered in Groton, and that the Selectmen”s office is aware of only one fine issued by the Dog Officer. The police department told the committee that between 2004 — 2010, it had received 34 animal bite reports, and between 2003 — 2010, it had logged 552 animal complaints. Bouchard explained that in the police logs, “animal” does not mean “dog,” but certainly includes dogs, so the actual number of dog-related calls is unknown. In addition, the Town Manager’s office averages about one dog complaint a week, according to Haddad.

Groton Place - Sabine Woods MapNEFF

Groton Place - Sabine Woods Map

Privately-owned Groton Place and Sabine Woods on Route 225 at the Nashua River bridge has been considered a run-free area for years. The 200-acre tract includes both park-like areas and woods, and is private property, owned by the New England Forestry Foundation. It is clearly posted that unleashed dogs are likely to be encountered on the property.

Three more hearings are scheduled for August 17, August 30, and September 12 at 7:00 p.m. The September 12 meeting will be part of the Board of Selectmen”s meeting. The public is encouraged to attend and offer comments. The bylaw can be revised through the hearings, if the committee wishes. The BoS then may add it to the Fall Town Meeting warrant for possible adoption on October 17.

Bouchard asked residents with questions or comments to send an e-mail to dogs@townofgroton.org or to contact him in the Town Clerk”s office at 978-448-1100.