By Edith Morgan
The discussion about a dog park in Worcester has heated up again – and hopefully this time, after all these years, several things will happen. But meanwhile, a few thoughts about the issue.
Worcester is full of thousands of dogs, from the tiniest Chihuahua to the great Dane, from small indoor pets to great hunting dogs, and all manner of breeds and sizes in between. Many are like family members, and go everywhere with their owners. The great majority are properly controlled by their masters, are in leashes when outdoors, and are licensed and healthy.
But they are all prohibited by city ordinance from being in any of Worcester’s over 60 parks – an ordinance that has been mostly unenforced throughout the years of its existence. A walk in any of our major parks will reveal that at any time there are a great number of people walking with their dogs; park events (concerts, festivals, etc.) and other family events usually feature families with their four-footed family members in attendance, and in all the years I have attended these events, dogs of all sizes and age have been well behaved, well under control, and have been “cleaned up after” by their owners. The very rare exceptions are not really a good reason to punish ALL for the depredations of a tiny minority. I can not think of any human activity that does not have its scofflaws – and we do not usually abolish everyone’s rights just to get at a few….
Our experience with the abolition of alcohol should have taught us how unwise it is to try to legislate away behaviors that are so popular and deeply entrenched in the culture. We are still suffering from the aftereffects of prohibition which did nothing to stem the tide of alcohol consumption in this nation. It merely drove consumers underground, gave arise to organized crime, and made criminals of ordinary people.
Maybe the questions of where dogs can be allowed need to be revisited: we already have leash laws, and require that owners clean up after their pets. We expect dogs to be always fully under the control of their owners. In the years since those rules were passed, I have found there is a great improvement in responsible dog ownership: many people have built fences in their yards, created runs, and increasingly do not leave animals in hot cars in the summer. But dogs have to be “walked” twice daily, at least, and someone has to follow them and pick up after them. ( I am a cat person, so I have been spared this task, as cats use a box right from the beginning, and only frequent “fur balls” need cleaning up).
Since there is widespread disregard of the “no dogs in parks” ordinance, and I have seen no evidence that the family pets that frequent our parks present any kind of danger to our population, why not tweak the ordinances to reflect the reality: let people baring their dogs, properly leashed and under control, with them when they come out. Provide a dog park well INSIDE GreenHill, and acknowledge and support the existence of Boynton Park as a dog park already. The people who go there have proved respectful and have created a mini-community of owners. Let’s help them, and spread their example.