Article 36 to allow dogs off leash in the mornings: Board of Selectmen recommend “no action” while the Parks and Recreation Commission is supportive

The following proposed vote for Article 36 was presented by A-DOG representatives to the Arlington Board of Selectmen on March 22 at about 10 pm:

The signers of Article 36 are proposing the following wording:.


To amend Section 8 (“Animal Control”) of Article 1 (“Use of Areas under Control of Park Department”) of Title IV (“Public Areas”) and/or Article 2 (“Canine Control”) of Title VIII (“Public Health and Safety”) of the By-Laws so as to allow dogs to be off-leash, under effective owner control, from park opening time until 9 am, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:

those lands directly abutting school properties;

within 15 ft of playground equipment;

and by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4 – 1 against recommending any action on this Article. This means they will direct Town Meeting not to vote for any changes to the leash laws. However, Substitute Motions can be presented, and Town Meeting can vote in opposition to the Selectmen’s recommendation.  (As it did, for example, in last years’ Article to allow Arlington residents to keep hens, which the Selectmen opposed.)

Subsequently, at an April 13 hearing, the Arlington Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously (with 4 out of 5 Commissioners present) to support the Article that A-DOG representatives will present to Town Meeting, to allow dogs off leash, under effective owner control in the mornings. It will be a Substitute Motion since the Board of Selectmen did not vote to support it (see below for more information). Parks and Recreation Commissioners commented that it was a sensible approach, and gave them the flexibility to further modify park use by dog owners, as needed.

At Town Meeting, which begins on April 26, the proposed vote will be introduced as a Substitute Motion. We hope that the support of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the efforts of our members to contact their elected Town Meeting Members, will help to overcome the disadvantage of the Selectmen’s lack of support.


A recording of the Board of Selectmen Hearing (in three Parts, each 7 to 8 min) can be found at the A-DOG YouTube site , with a written summary below:

Guide to Videos from Board of Selectmen hearing on Article 36

Please note: These videos are unedited, except for being divided into three parts to meet YouTube maximum video requirements. Total time for the three is approximately 22 min.

This is the Arlington Dog Owner Group’s (A-DOG) proposed vote under Article 36 under discussion:

To amend (appropriate sections) of the By-Laws so as to allow dogs to be off-leash, under effective owner control, from park opening time until 9 am, in all lands under control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except:
those lands directly abutting school properties;
within 15 ft of playground equipment;
and by specific exclusion of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Part 1:

1. Presentation of Article 36 proposed vote by three proponents:

Mary McCartney (TM member, Pct 1): reads proposed vote and reviews its assets, including only early morning hours, requirement for owner control, and flexibility for the Parks and Recreation to make additional changes
Ann Smith (TM member, Pct 17): presents petition in favor of off-leash recreation signed by 900 Arlington residents, supplying list of these names to the Selectmen
Susan Doctrow (TM member, Pct 21): discusses why the proposal is relatively conservative, citing leash laws in other MA communities as examples; she also says that it is complementary to the work of the Dog Park Task Force (on which she’s also serving) currently evaluating possible fenced parks

2. Selectman Clarissa Rowe recommends that the Board vote “no action” and this is seconded by Selectmen Jack Hurd and Diane Mahon.  While commending A-DOG’s efforts, Ms. Rowe says that A-DOG must continue to educate dog owners to be more responsible before anything like this will be acceptable.

Part 2:

1. For continuity, repeat of final lines (Part 1) from Selectman Rowe and “no action” motion

2. Selectman Diane Mahon raises concerns that out-of-towners will come to Arlington to use its parks for their dogs’ off-leash recreation. Any plan like this should address ways to exclude outsiders, if possible.

3. Ann Smith and Susan Doctrow rebut this concern:
Which towns and cities will such dog owners come from? For example, Somerville and Lexington already have facilities and provisions for off leash recreation. (Ms. Mahon’s answer to this included Cambridge and Boston).
• Only early morning hours are proposed. People need to get to work or their kids to school and are unlikely to have time to drive very far. And, even if they do, the parks are virtually empty at such hours so the impact, if any, is questionable.

4. Susan Doctrow further comments on Ms. Rowe’s statement that Arlington is too densely populated for this proposal, with a discussion of the successful off leash recreation program (over 20 yrs in operation) in New York City. Ms. Rowe answers that NYC has more parkland, and that the off-leash areas are further from residences, citing her visit to her daughter in NYC.

5. Public commentary begins, with Article proponent James Goebel, explaining that this proposal makes sense, and is much less complex than the Green Dog plan that Town Meeting voted against last year.

6. Article proponent Deborah Goldsmith states the need for a leash law change such as the one being proposed, for example, to help dog owners raise well-trained and behaved dogs. She discusses why the proposal with limited hours is reasonable. She mentions, in particular, how unproductive it is to have it be illegal to even use a 26 ft training leash. She also says that she believes it is time, and that another year without doing something will not help the situation.

Part 3:

1. For continuity, repeat of final lines (Part 2) from proponent Deborah Goldsmith

2. Article proponent Ellen Kravitz addresses Ms. Rowe’s comments that it is incumbent on all dog owners to educate, and correct the behavior of, irresponsible dog owners before there can be any change to the leash law. She says that dog owners are being held to a standard of perfection that is not expected of other groups. For example, even though there are dangerous traffic accidents, nobody says that other drivers cannot be allowed to have drivers’ licenses until all drivers behave responsibly. Similarly, sports events are not cancelled because a few park users litter during such activities.

3. Article proponent BethAnn Friedman (TM member, Pct 15) stressed that last year’s vote at Town Meeting against the Green Dog plan was very close (88 to 83), indicating that there is wide support for allowing dogs off leash under certain conditions. Ms. Rowe said that a proposal such as this can still be presented as a Substitute Motion at Town Meeting, even though the Selectmen will vote against supporting it.

4. Article opponent Mustafa Varoglu (TM member, Pct 8) says that he supports off-leash recreation under certain circumstances, and also is a member of the Dog Park Task Force. But, he doesn’t support this proposal because it leaves too much decision in the hands of Parks and Recreation Commission instead of in the public and the hands of the Board of Selectmen. He did not like the previous Green Dog plan, and raised concerns about the views of this Commission, stating 3 members of the Parks and Recreation Commission were members of the Green Dog committee. (This is not correct, to our knowledge. Only one individual, Leslie Mayer, is part of both Parks and Recreation Commission and Green Dog Committee. As in other communities, the Parks and Recreation Commission is appointed by the Town Manager, with oversight from the Board of Selectmen to decide on details of park usage.)

5. The Board of Selectmen issued their final vote against A-DOG’s proposal under Article 36. Selectman Kevin Greeley (Chairman of the Board of Selectmen) voted against his colleagues. He explained that, like last year, he feels that a lot of work has gone into this effort by the Green Dog committee, and that it deserves a discussion at Town Meeting. However, the vote was 4 to 1, so it is “no action”. Mr. Greeley said we must keep talking about this issue, and joked that he wants to see all 900 petition signers at the Town Meeting when this is discussed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *