It has just come to my attention that there is a proposal to revise the Animal Control Ordinance to prohibit dogs from being on Huntley Meadow during sporting events. I’m writing to express my extreme dissatisfaction with this proposal. I believe Huntley Meadows is one of the most valuable assets in town and it is an important resource for all residents, including those with and without dogs. In the 20 years that I have lived in Norwich, we have always managed to utilize Huntley Meadows for multiple purposes simultaneously. To my knowledge, Huntley Meadows has never been reserved solely for the use of sporting events, nor do I believe that should be the goal.
I was sorry to learn that a two‐year‐old child was bitten by a dog while at Huntley. According to the Select Board packet, this is supposedly the reason to ban dogs during sporting events. While I fully support every effort to make public spaces safe for everyone, the logic behind this proposal is unclear. A two‐year‐old is too young to participate in a sporting event, and young children are present at Huntley throughout the day to enjoy the playground. An outright ban would unnecessarily prohibit dog walkers from being on other parts of the meadow that are not being used for sports. Additionally, it would prohibit spectators from bringing their dogs to watch the games, which could be problematic for many parents.
Rather than banning all dogs during sporting events, I think there are ways to ensure that Huntley Meadows remains a safe and enjoyable outdoor recreation space for everyone. One alternative to the proposed ban would be to require that dogs within a certain distance of a sporting event be restrained. This would allow dog walkers to use other areas of the meadow, while ensuring that players and spectators are not bothered by our 4‐legged friends. For added protection, one could create a separate space alongside each field for spectators with dogs.
As a dog owner, I walk on Huntley twice a day. In addition to providing a lovely place to exercise, I enjoy the opportunity to socialize with other town residents who walk their dogs there. I do think it is important for us to enforce the rules that are in existence. This includes making sure that everyone picks up after their dog and ensuring that dogs don’t interfere with sporting events. Fortunately, there have been very few incidents in which someone has been bitten or frightened by a dog. However, I recognize that even one is too many. I hope we can work together to prevent this from happening again without penalizing the vast majority of dog owners who enjoy Huntley without incident.