In late 2018, the Parks and Recreation Commission established a Green Dog Subcommittee, comprised of both Commissioners and members of the public, to evaluate the Town's off leash dog program, known as the Green Dog Program. The program was initially established following a Special Town Meeting held by the Town of Brookline in May 2006, whereby Town Meeting voted to authorize the Park and Recreation Commission to establish an off-leash dog program on parkland, under their jurisdiction, in accordance with certain conditions. The Commission held 2 years of public meetings, conducted a pilot program and public survey and, with the help of many citizens, officially rolled out the Green Dog Program.
The Parks and Recreation Commission designates off-leash areas at specified parks and hours, subject to dog owner etiquette and compliance, registration, an annual fee and ongoing evaluation. The Commission and Director of Parks and Open Space have established clear rules for participation in the program that are made available in multiple formats (web, print, signage etc..) for all dog owners to follow. In addition to providing an opportunity for dogs and their owners to exercise in the parks and connect with their neighbors, one of the goals of the program was to improve compliance with the leash law town-wide (which was at the time quite neglected) by allowing designated parks and times that dogs could legally run off leash. It was quite successful at the beginning and became a model for other communities. Over the years the Commission has added or removed parks, changed hours and amended the rules and regulations and listened to citizen ideas as they relate to the program.
There has, however, been a decline in compliance with the leash law, not only in Green Dog designated parks, but also in parks and playgrounds that do not allow dogs off leash, and the Commission is concerned about public safety, protecting the Town's assets from damage and overuse, and protecting the interests of all our public space users. There have also been increased complaints regarding off leash dogs that are neither members of the Green Dog Program nor belong to residents. These concerns led to the creation of the subcommittee charged with evaluating everything from the goals and objectives of the program to park conditions, complaints, staffing, fees, enforcement, rules and regulations, education, program benefits and communication plan, including signage. The changes proposed as part of this warrant article are the result of the committee's recommendations and review by Town Counsel's office. The intent is to 1.) clarify that dogs who run off leash in the designated off leash areas during off leash times must be registered and follow the established rules and regulations and 2.) allow appropriate DPW code enforcement personnel to enforce the leash law.
The addition of the proposed language: "the dog must be registered with and accompanied by proof of current registration in the Town's off leash program in order to participate, which participation shall be subject to compliance with publiclyavailable rules established by the Director of Parks and Open Space" is intended to clarify that dogs must be registered and have proof of registration in order to participate in the off leash program (Green Dog Program) and that a requirement of participation is compliance with the rules and regulations. The success of the program and protection of the Town' capital assets depends upon respectful sharing of these public spaces and adherence to the rules.
Enforcement of the leash law has become a significant problem town-wide in public spaces. The subcommittee would like to see greater enforcement by the police department and enable code enforcement personnel within the Department of Public Works to be able to enforce section 8.6.7 of the dog control bylaw which relates to both the leash law and removal of dog waste. Under Article 10.2 Prosecutions and Enforcement section 8.6.7 has been included in Part VIII-Public Health & Safety. This allows the Commissioner of Public Works to assign Visitor Services and Code Enforcement personnel to assist with compliance and enforcement initiatives as needed. Clarification of the bylaw and the opportunity for DPW visitor services and code enforcement personnel to help protect the parks and public assets are recommended by the subcommittee and Park and Recreation Commission and supported by the Commissioner of Public Works.
|Official Text of the Article
VOTED: That the Town amend the General By-Laws, Article 8.6, Dog Control, Section 8.6.7 thereof (Restraint of Dogs) and Article 10.2, Prosecutions and Enforcement, as follows (additions appear in underlined bold text, and deletions appear in stricken bold text):
SECTION 8.6.7(a) RESTRAINT OF DOGS
Any person owning or harboring a dog shall not suffer or allow it to run at large in any of the streets or public ways, or places in the Town of Brookline, or upon the premises of any one other than the owner or keeper, unless the owner or occupant of such premises grants permission. Under no circumstances shall a dog, even on a leash, be allowed on private property, unless specific permission has been granted. No dog shall be permitted in any public place or street within the Town of Brookline unless it is effectively restrained by a chain or leash not exceeding 7 feet in length.
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:
1. the dog must at all times be accompanied by and under the control of a person;
2. any dog left unattended may be impounded,
3. the person in charge of a dog inside a designated off leash area must remove any fecal material deposited by that dog in the designated off leash area, before taking the dog from the designated off leash area; and
4. the person in charge of a dog inside a designated off leash area must control the animal so that it does not disturb the surrounding area by barking or other action and so that it does not disturb or threaten others using the designated off leash area and the area surrounding the designated off leash area.
5. no area adjacent to a school shall be used as an off leash area without approval of the School Committee.
6. the Director of Parks and Open Space or his/her designee shall place a sign, in a conspicuous place, in all designated off leash areas which shall state the authorized hour(s) when such area may be used for such purpose and any other conditions of such use.
7. the dog must be registered with and accompanied by proof of current registration in the Town's off leash program in order to participate, which participation shall be subject to compliance with publicly available rules established by the Director of Parks and Open Space.
This section is subject to the Town's legal obligations to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.