Rules for using Town spaces (dog restrictions and a bike & stroller prohibition)

by beth on April 29, 2020

Post image for Rules for using Town spaces (dog restrictions and a bike & stroller prohibition)

Above: Are you familiar with all of the rules for public spaces in Town? (top row, photos from flickr posts L-R by Jay Cross [cropped], Paul Downey, and Mark Morgan)

The Town sent out a message looking to alert/remind dog owners about rules at certain public spaces in Southborough. It prompted me to follow up for rules on another, and I learned something new.

For fellow dog owners, here are the rules that we need to know:

  1. Oops. These little fellas must not be familiar with the rules for dogs in public spaces. Are you? (photo from flickr by olaszmelo)Dogs aren’t allowed at Chestnut Hill Farm trails
  2. Dogs aren’t allowed in the Trottier Track area
  3. Dogs are allowed in specific areas at Breakneck Hill and the Town Forest – they need to be kept to the trails
  4. Please pick up and take away your dog’s waste. (Don’t forget, we have a pooper scooper law.)

In checking on the Trottier Track, I learned that dogs aren’t the only issue there. They also have a prohibition on strollers and bikes:

please remind everyone as well that Bikes and Strollers are not permitted [on the Trottier Track.] These can cause harm to the brand new surfacing and we would like to protect the investment as best we can to get the longest life out of it.

In 2018, voters approved $279,500 to resurface the track. That resurfacing was just completed last fall.

As for the dog rules at other spaces, below is the full message from the Town with explanations:

A Reminder About Dogs

We are so thankful for the cooperation that we have had during the opening at Chestnut Hill with a seamless opening weekend! A quick reminder that dogs are not allowed at Chestnut Hill for the safety of others and the animals.

You can bring your dogs to Breakneck Hill and the Town Forest but, please clean up after your animals! This is crucial to preserve our open space areas and keeping them clean. Please keep dogs on trails only has we have fragile grassland bird habitat in which dogs can unintentionally [destroy] nests or injure baby birds. We have a carry in, carry out policy so any waste (whether it be from pets or otherwise) must be taken with you as you leave! We appreciate your cooperation during these times as we all enjoy these areas.

If you have any questions, please contact Melissa Danza at mdanza@southboroughma.com

(outlaw dogs photo from flickr by olaszmelo)

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lynne April 29, 2020 at 1:47 PM

Please remind people that they should be picking up after their dogs if they are walking them on the golf course!

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2 beth April 29, 2020 at 2:09 PM

The intent was for that to be covered by #4 – the same applies to all public spaces where dogs are walked.

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3 Matthew April 29, 2020 at 8:25 PM

I looked on the town website and online at the ecodes360 website for information on dogs and public spaces. Under the leash law it states that dogs are not allowed on school grounds.
I am wondering if anyone knows of any other rules or regulations that cover where dogs can or cannot go that is as explicit as the leash law.

https://www.southboroughtown.com/town-clerk/pages/dog-licenses-animal-control

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4 beth April 30, 2020 at 7:57 AM

To clarify, the Town Code actually says that “unrestrained” dogs can’t be on school grounds. It doesn’t seem to prohibit their presence anywhere else unless they act as a “public nuisance” by attacking people/domestic animals or chase cars.

I looked it up before writing the post. Growing up, I had always heard that Southborough has a leash law. I was looking for the details to share and found that it appears we don’t. At least, certainly not a strict one.

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5 Matthew April 30, 2020 at 9:54 AM

So is the link I shared from the Town Clerks’ space is just someone writing what they think is the rule? Can a rule even be a rule or be enforced if it’s not in the town code?

Given the recent comments on the Parents Facebook page and those that have appeared on this blog there seems to be a dog problem that is not addressed by the current rules. Unless there is an attack the police defer to Animal Control who while busy is also possibly spread too thin. Leaving the rest of us to worry about the next loose dog on the trail while watching where we step.

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6 beth April 30, 2020 at 10:58 AM

I don’t know if it’s an error or a rule that I wasn’t aware of. It’s certainly not a bylaw. But, I presume that it doesn’t have to be written into Town Code for property owners to prohibit even leashed dogs on their properties. So, it’s possible that school officials ruled no dogs allowed – but I don’t recall seeing signs to that effect.

This spring, whether leashed dogs are usually allowed on school properties is a fairly moot point. The only school field/facility currently open to the public is the track – and dogs are prohibited there.

As for loose dogs, the leash law does seem loose. I presume that you can call Animal Control if a dog is on a property where dogs are disallowed (or if they “attack” someone or chase vehicles). Otherwise, I’m guessing it would require an Article at a future Town Meeting to enact stricter leash laws.

However, it’s worth noting that while some owners may choose to let their dogs run free – you could also be running into one(s) that escaped a leash, house, or yard. It does happen and leash laws wouldn’t change that. (My own scoundrel has gotten loose a few times. Fortunately we were able to very quickly corral her each time.)

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7 Al Hamilton April 30, 2020 at 9:06 PM

The Town Code is only one source of authority for local officials. Many elected officials and some appointed ones have authorities defined or authorized by state law.

For example, the BOS has the authority to settle law suits against the town even if the suit is not in an area under their formal jurisdiction. This does not appear in the Town Code but is enshrined in State Law. I believe that public health boards, school committees, conservation comissions and many other board and committees have authorities that are derived from sources other than the Town Code.

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8 latitude April 30, 2020 at 10:49 AM

As applied to dogs as pets, the word “restraint” runs the gamut from voice control to the use of incapacitating chemicals. Surely some dogs may be controlled merely by the voice of their owners, while others require the use of physical devices: harness, collar, leash, etc.

Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS), until recently, had a “therapy dog” on campus – Parker the Power Pup was available to soothe students. I would wonder how “restrained” Parker was?

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9 beth April 30, 2020 at 11:19 AM

Good point that seems to be validated by the exceptions to the nuisance law:

A.
If such dog is attached to a restraining device or under the care and control of a person competent to restrain such dog so that it will not be a threat to public safety. The mere muzzling of such a dog shall not satisfy the requirements of this article.
B.
If such dog is to be used as a so-called “hunting dog” and is being supervised as such by a person competent to restrain such dog so that it shall not be a threat to public safety.

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10 Former Resident April 30, 2020 at 1:58 PM

I can speak from experience when it comes to loose dogs. People who lived near me were irresponsible with their dogs. On 2 different occasions they attacked and killed our pets. Although animal control was responsive their was little they could do. In our case we appealed to the selectmen who advised an electric fence be installed which was finally done.

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