Franklin Park off-leash dog area plan moves forward

June 7, 2013
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City Councilor Matt O’Malley supports the Franklin Park Coalition’s (FPC) plan for off-leash dog areas and times in Franklin Park, proposed last month, while the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) questions part of the plan.

Meanwhile, the FPC is engaging in discussions with park users before going to the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“We need more discussion, so that’s the next step right now, especially as people are hearing about the proposals,” FPC Executive Director Christine Poff told the Gazette last week, though she did not specify how that discussion was taking place.

The proposal would create one full-time off-leash area in a corner of the Wilderness by Cemetery Road, known as Forest Hills corner, and a part-time off-leash area near the bear dens in the Long Crouch Woods. The full-time area is currently not planned to be fenced in.

Poff said she is planning on moving forward with the first part of the proposal.

“I am going to try to apply for official [City] permission to use the Forest Hills corner as off-leash, but that’s all for right now. The other proposals need more vetting and larger buy-in before we go ahead,” she said. Poff said at a May 15 meeting that she had been talking one-on-one with dog-walking users of the park.

O’Malley told the Gazette he supported the FPC’s efforts for an off-leash area.

“I think it’s terrific. It would be great to identify an area where responsible dog owners in JP could let their dogs run free,” O’Malley told the Gazette. “The Franklin Park Coalition has a really interesting proposal.”

The MSPCA, which runs the cutting-edge animal hospital at its 350 S. Huntington Ave. headquarters, supports off-leash areas, as long as they are fenced-in.

“I would recommend dogs be let off-leash only if it is within a completely fenced-in area. This prevents the very real danger of escape, with the dog getting lost or being hit by a car,” MSPCA behavior analyst Terri Bright said.

She also recommends finding dogs with similar play styles to avoid potential aggression issues between dogs who don’t know each other.

The City of Boston only has two City-sanctioned off-leash dog parks, a fenced-in one in the South End and a fence-free area in Boston Common, both part of a pilot program.

Owners are required to leash their dogs with a lead no longer than seven feet in public in the City of Boston. Failure to do so can lead to fines up to $50.