June 25, 2018
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Dog owners: Bangor leash law ‘making a big deal out of nothing’

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — As the city moves closer to passing an ordinance change that would require dogs to be on leashes in some areas, dog owners have begun barking louder that the change is unfair.

Several residents spoke in opposition Tuesday about the city’s proposal to designate about half of the City Forest and all of Cascade Park and Brown Woods as areas where leashes would be required.

The proposed changes were based on the results of a recent resident survey conducted by Bangor’s Parks and Recreation Department that suggested some sort of leash laws would be appropriate.

City resident Susan Pope said she has been taking her dog regularly to the City Forest since 2004 and has never seen any incidents where someone’s safety was at risk.

“I think we’re making a big deal out of nothing,” she said at Tuesday’s government operations committee meeting. “We already police ourselves.”

Susan Lauritano agreed that owners should be allowed to police themselves and added that any changes likely would be unenforceable.

“There is no way to monitor this,” she said. “The city can’t even enforce speeding [limits].”

Jerry Jarrell, a 45-year resident of Bangor, said he loves his dogs and doesn’t want to restrict them.

“Unless you have a field or forest nearby, if you pass this, your dog will never be able to run free,” he said. “That would be too bad.”

Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette, however, clarified that only a small number of open spaces would be affected by the changes. Aside from Cascade Park and Brown Woods, the areas in the City Forest where leashes would be required include: the parking area at Tripp Drive and the entire Tripp Drive Trail, the entire East Trail, the entire Shannon Drive Trail and part of the Main Road Trail.

“The intent was to try to balance the desires of owners who want to let their dogs off a leash to those who aren’t as comfortable with that,” he said.

Additionally, the city also is in the process of working with a resident group to create a dog park at an as-yet-undetermined location in Bangor.

The city now is governed by state statute that indicates dogs must be controlled by owners, either with a leash or by voice command. While most who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they were responsible pet owners, Councilor Pat Blanchette said not every pet owner fits that description.

But Pope, an assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, argued that the city would be instituting more government intervention to appease a small group of “uncomfortable” people. She also scoffed at the notion that a dog park would help.

“Dog parks are for people who don’t know how to control their dogs,” she said.

The matter was sent forward Tuesday by the government operations committee to the full City Council, which likely will vote on the proposed changes later this month.

Councilor Hal Wheeler, who agreed to send the matter to the full council out of respect for the process, said he would not support the changes.

“I’ve not seen enough persuasive evidence [that changes are needed],” he said.

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