Dog owners seek long leash on new state law
Dog owners seek long leash on new state law
By CYNTHIA MCCORMICK
Aug. 20, 2018
SANDWICH, Mass. (AP) — New state regulations haven't stopped canines visiting the East Sandwich Game Farm during the dog days of summer from swimming or playing off leash.
Whether dogs' owners will eventually have to conform to new leashing regulations adopted by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife remains to be seen.
But dog owners who frequent the site off Route 6A and volunteers who maintain the property hope that actions they have taken to informally police canine activity at the site give them a permanent reprieve from the leashing requirements.
The regulars ask people with more rambunctious, aggressive dogs to take them elsewhere, and every dog owner is encouraged to at least carry a leash, said Ed Houlihan, of Sandwich, who is a trustee of the Thornton W. Burgess Society, which maintains the game farm area in a management agreement with the state.
"If you see a bunch of school children coming, you leash your dog," Houlihan said. "Expectations, that's how it's done here. It's diminished the problem."
The Fisheries and Wildlife board voted in March to adopt a leash law for all dogs at state wildlife management areas, which on Cape Cod include the East Sandwich Game Farm, Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area in Falmouth and Hyannis Ponds Wildlife Management Area, among other locations.
The board also approved a regulation requiring dog owners to pick up any waste from their pet on wildlife management area property and dispose of it off site.
The state has not posted any signs about the new leashing regulations at the East Sandwich Game Farm, although signs saying animals must be leashed and under restraint were posted by April at the Burrage Pond wildlife management area in Hanson, according to The Enterprise in Brockton.
"As far as I know, nothing official has come down yet" at the East Sandwich Game Farm, Houlihan said. "We haven't had any official notice of it."
When questioned about whether signs will be posted at the East Sandwich Game Farm, state officials said the new regulations are not yet in effect.
State officials sent an email that said, "Mass Wildlife is undertaking preparations to enforce and publicize the regulations before filing them," without going into other details.
The Fisheries and Wildlife board voted five months ago to adopt the leash regulations after receiving repeated complaints from people who said they had bad experiences or unsafe encounters with unleashed dogs in wildlife management areas, according to state officials.
The Enterprise reported that incidents at Burrage Pond in Hanson appeared to be a catalyst for the new state rules, prompting complaints from hunters, neighbors and walkers about unleashed "packs of dogs" in what appear to be organized dog-walking groups.
The East Sandwich Game Farm also is popular with groups who walk their dogs together and let the canines cool off in Scorton Creek and Hoxie Pond.
Not everybody visiting the game farm has been happy to run into unleashed dogs.
Mary Beers, former education director at the Thornton W. Burgess Society, said this spring that she's taken children on nature walks during which they "encountered dogs where we didn't see anybody with them at all."
Houlihan said the dog-walking community and volunteers such as himself are using positive "social pressure" to eliminate encounters with unruly dogs at the game farm.
People are encouraged to leash their dogs if they catch sight of schoolchildren or anybody who doesn't look comfortable with the dogs' presence, Houlihan said.
Houlihan said he and other volunteers at the game farm also have blocked off part of the boundary with the adjacent Talbot Point Conservation Area to keep out curious dogs and protect wildlife.
The game farm volunteers also support state efforts to eliminate dog waste at state wildlife management areas, said Houlihan, one of a group of mostly retired volunteers who mow grass and maintain trails at the game farm.
Using fundraising money, the group bought a specially designed steel pot with an insert and lid for dog waste that Houlihan carts to the dump weekly.
"Lucky me," he said.
The goal is to make sure the East Sandwich Game Farm provides a safe and friendly environment for dog lovers and everybody else, Houlihan said.
"An awful lot of people get an awful lot of enjoyment out of that place," he said.
Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodtimes.com