A Nov. 6th incident has rekindled debate in West Roxbury about dog leash laws at Millennium Park.
West Roxbury Patch published a story based on a police report about a woman who contacted authorities distressed, saying that a trainer teaching dog owners "aggressive" techniques had abused her 13-year-old basset hound with a whip.
But witnesses were quick to respond, saying that the trainer from Pawsitive Dog, a Boston-based training service, merely swung a leash in the dog's direction to keep it from interfering in the training session.
A Boston Parks & Recreation employee confirmed that the dog company was at the park without a permit, violating a city ordinance.
The training group participants criticized the basset hound's owner, who allegedly had the dog off-leash and did not respond to requests to leash the dog. The witnesses say the owner then corralled a "mob" of people that "yelled and jeered" at the owners attending the training session.
The event marked a major conflict born of a breaking of the leash laws.
Boston City Councilor At-Large John Connolly, a West Roxbury resident, was surprised to hear of the incident, and was "hesitant" to address it in full.
"I've never received one complaint from West Roxbury," he said. "I've never found [leash laws] to be an issue."
Connolly was also surprised to hear of conflict between dog owners about the issue.
"I represent neighborhoods where there are disputes between owners and non-owners, but not between owners," he said, referring to canines.
Millennium Park often sees dogs bound its paths unleashed. Signs throughout the park demand that dogs are kept on leashes. The Boston Animal Control department's website also states that dogs must be kept on leashes no longer than eight-feet under the rules and regulations section.
Mary Hines, spokesperson for Parks & Recreation, said dogs are required to be on-leash primarily because they can attack, and because some people – especially children – fear them.
Another concern voiced by several park visitors has been the failure of owners to clean up after their dogs relieve themselves.
"We don't want the park overflowing with poop," said Raina Hall-Brown, a school-aged girl who does not own a dog, recently at Millennium Park.
"If people see their dog pooping, they should pick it up," said Una Gillic of West Roxbury.
But Hines says off-leash dogs are part of life these days at Millennium Park.
"People have been enjoying walking their dogs there for years," she said. "Some keep them on leashes. Some don't."
If a dog is off-leash, the owner is subject to a $25 fine. Boston Police or Boston Animal Control officers can enforce the rule, but Hines said it generally takes a phone call from a distressed park visitor to see a ticket handed out. She added Animal Control does its best to explain the rules to owners who have their dogs off-leash before issuing a fine.
Connolly said he hopes dog owners will follow the rules.
"I expect - everyone expects - rules to be followed in any public space," he said.
On one recent day park visitors, however, saw little problem with dogs being kept off-leash.
Gillic, who keeps her dog on a leash, says she's never had an issue with an off-leash dog.
"Usually owners are very good with their dogs," she said.
Gillic said owners should never take their dogs on the fields, where children play. But she said she had no issue with dogs off-leash on the park's lower-level tracks.
Nancy Breslin, of Newton, also keeps her dog leashed. But she, too, takes no issue with off-leash dogs, as long as the dog is prepared for that responsibility.
"As long as the dog listens," she said. "It's fine if the dogs are friendly and if people stay close and know where their dogs are at all times."
Breslin says she keeps her dog, Fenway, on-leash because he exhibits an "unpredictable" nature.
Chris, a Roslindale resident who did not want to give her last name, keeps her dog Lenny off-leash during their daily walks at the park. But she is sure to respect those who may feel otherwise.
"I always put him on a leash if we're approaching someone who's not walking a dog," she says.
One Dedham man, who did not wish to give his name, does not own a dog, said he strongly opposes leash laws for the dog's sake.
"They need to run," he says. "They're dogs. They need their exercise."