Dogs off leash on bike path

On February 8, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Dog owners are being put on notice that leash laws will be strictly enforced on bike path. – Photo by Bobbie Toner

By Harry Kane

Leash laws for canines along the bike path will be enforced more strictly, says Somerville Deputy Chief Michael S. Cabral.

Recent complaints about unleashed dogs along the bike path have caused police to be more vigilant in their efforts to dissuade the owners to let their dogs run free.

“It’s been an ongoing problem for several years. We try to address it with police visibility and animal control officers. We really haven’t given a lot of tickets,” says Cabral.

Some people who have been repeat offenders have been issued citations in the past.

Lately the police have been receiving more complaints, which means they are going to have to step up enforcement.

Courtney O’Keefe, a lifelong Somerville resident who uses the bike path has been bitten once a couple years ago when she was running and was bit in the ankle more recently. “It’s just getting to the point now where it’s becoming a major situation. My main concern is for dog owners to be responsible.”

Courtney wants people that travel the bike path and witness the unleashed dogs to register at 311, that way the city can track the patterns of the unleashed dogs. “That’s the best way for citizens to assist the police,” says O’Keefe.

The police plan to put out a CTY call and also place a message on the city’s website alerting dog owners that citations will be issued if their dogs are off leash.

Somerville residents will receive one week’s notice of these newly enforced citations. The citations will be for $50. There may be plain clothed officers patrolling the hot spots looking for offenders.

“We are going to do that for 90 days, according to the Deputy.

Most of the incidents are taking place behind Lexington Park on the bike path. “That’s where we are getting most of our complaints,” says Cabral.

“All you need is one to bite a poor baby or something like that…God forbid a poor baby is mauled and everybody is gonna say, why didn’t you do something,” says Alderman White.

“A lot of people have dogs, unfortunately there are a few who don’t train the dog, the dog doesn’t obey, even a little dog, and it could jump on the baby.”

“This has been ongoing, so it’s just boosting it up a level, but we want to get to the point where people know that we do mean business.”

Hugo Smoter, an avid bike rider from Ward 5 was recently attacked by a dog and was chased but escaped unharmed. “The problem really is, yes there are dangerous dogs out there, they do bite, but of the main problems is that there is a congregation of dog owners that gathers around the Lexington Park area. Roughly in the morning and in the evenings during rush hour when there’s the most traffic on the path and it’s not uncommon to see between five and ten unleashed dogs running around.”

“One of the biggest problems is that they run around and you’re trying to pass, and they run in front of your bike, you slam your brakes you fall off. One of the main problems is that these are repeat offenders are not really afraid of police enforcement and they might see a police officer and hook their dog for thirty seconds until the police go away.”

Recommendations that came out of the committee will actually start enforcing the leash laws with ticketing and citations.


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