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Blogger’s Note: This post, first published on October 23, 2013, has been revised following the installation of some wonderful “poop stations” around Montpelier and adoption of a new Code of Conduct for dogs and people in Hubbard Park.

Dear Montpelier Dog Owners:

Some of you are leaving dog crap around our city. On my walk this morning, I encountered this at North Branch Nature Center: four bags of crap at a plastic-bag dispenser placed there for your convenience.

It’s not a trash can.

When I went to refit that detached piece of PVC, I encountered two bags of dog doo stuffed into the pipe. Two more are on the ground.

The executive director of North Branch Nature Center regularly goes out to clean this stuff up. He refuses to ask his employees to do it. And he’s got better things to do for our city, including sharing nature with kids and adults.

I’m also finding bags of crap in Hubbard Park.

Most of you are responsible. So please find ways to educate or police the irresponsible. A good place to start is the brand new Montpelier Dog Waste Management Plan, which features plastic bags and trash (crap) bins. It seems to be the right policy.

Breaking News (9:30 pm): Montpelier City Council approved 11 of these dog waste stations for the city.

I don’t own a dog, but they have always been big in my life. I enjoy or tolerate most dogs I encounter in Hubbard Park. But the park needs rules. We need them not only for dog crap, but also for simple harmony at the intersection nature and human nature. The city has adopted a code of conduct for dog owners. It’s great. Here’s the relevant language:

  1. In accordance with the Montpelier Dog Control Ordinance, closely supervise your dog by voice control or leash. Keep your dog in sight at all times.
  2. Don’t assume others want to interact with your dog.
  3. Don’t allow your dog to approach people or other dogs without mutual agreement.
  4. Carry a leash for every dog you’re walking and be prepared to use it.
  5. Dogs must have a current rabies vaccination.
  6. Dog owners must pick up after their dogs. Receptacles and bags are available.

These are most welcome standards. Let’s run with them. I’m a consulting biologist and field naturalist. But this isn’t necessarily about dogs off leash presenting harm to the nature of Hubbard Park. For the most part, dogs don’t threaten the ecology of the place (with white-tailed deer and ground-nesting birds among the vulnerable exceptions). This is instead about human nature and experience; it’s about accommodation. Yes, Hubbard Park is a refuge for people who love walking with their dogs. But it should also be a place for people to walk and think, to observe nature or simply do nothing in relative quiet. I’ve had dogs ruin my nature encounters in the park. I know of adults who don’t go to Hubbard Park because they are either afraid of dogs or dogs running off the leash frighten their children.

Yet we can respect our love for dogs and our desire for quiet moments on life’s long green path. There is no need to require leashes throughout Hubbard Park. I’m in the park several days a week. Dogs cross my path almost every time I’m there – some well-behaved, some certainly not. But let’s let this new policy work. Only if it doesn’t should we return to the issue (I hope we don’t have to), which might include designating some areas of the park either leash-on or leash-off. But the Montpelier Parks Commission has many more items on its agenda, including some exciting stuff. Onward!

Bryan Pfeiffer

  1. Erica Hare says:

    Great post. I’d like to suggest, also, that Montpelier put some TRASH CANS AROUND TOWN…this is the only place I’ve ever lived where there’s no place to throw out dog poop but in other people’s personal trash cans. It’s nuts.

  2. J says:

    Thank you , thank you, Bryan. I filled out a survey that had most, if not all, of your concerns mentioned in my ‘comments’ section.

  3. Ray Barnes says:

    Wright on (that is RIGHT ON and WRITE on!!)

  4. Liz says:

    Have you achieved publication in a paper or somewhere with a wider audience? 😉

  5. Jennifer Gordon says:

    I agree with your comments, Bryan. Dogs should be on leashes in Hubbard Park and the Willard’s Woods rules are reasonable. For those people who want to have their dog run unleashed, a designated enclosed area would suffice. I own a dog and walk him in Hubbard Park and would like to continue to enjoy the park. I have felt uncomfortable at times as I’ve been approached by unknown dogs unleashed. Without knowing their temperament, it can cause concern. Thank you for beginning the conversation.

    • Debra Sargent says:

      I have walked my dog (s) (one at a time) in Hubbard Park and around town for at least thirty years. I have also encountered difficulties. HOWEVER, I have mostly encountered opportunities to teach. Teach about dogs, dog manners, trust, love and caring. There are many problems in Hubbard Park. Broken glass, empty containers, trash, food thrown in bushes/bones, bikers on trails where they are prohibited, skiers, runners, going by w/out a warning then wondering why a person is startled (or a dog), children approaching an animal w/out parental/owner consent, children running through the park w/out supervision, and more. Suffice it to say that there are more problems than just dogs. We need to act as a community. It is not dog vs non dog. Or it should not be. We have coexisted for quite awhile now and done it well.

      I believe the controversy began when two individuals began bringing their aggressive dogs to the park and allowed them to be off leash. We, the dog walkers, did not do enough to address this issue. Neither did the park ranger. The issue of dog poop has been on going. A simple act of weekly patrols would fix this. Weekly patrols that addressed : Broken glass, containers, ALL things that do not belong in the park. Instead we are spending an inordinate amount of money on prevention and problem solving w/bags/stations. Why do we think those who do not pick up after their dog will take these items and address their behavior now that we are providing tools ??? It is helping the already compliant. ….

  6. Kristin Glaser says:

    Yay Bryan. I would certainly support the Willard Woods policy. Kristin Glaser

  7. cameron says:

    Thanks for posting this Bryan! it has really been bothering me too. excellent suggestions!!! cameron

  8. Steve Sease says:

    Your suggestions make sense to me.

    Dogs are great. Their waste is not. Their owners need to step up.

  9. dhm says:

    Good luck with that one Bryan! I’ve been fighting that fight for
    yrs!! As you indicated I like dogs too so for me it’s not an anti-dog thing. I was once almost physically assaulted for
    politely reminding a guy (and his companion) who were “walking” their dog in a place where dogs were not allowed (boardwalk in FL) and he called me a sob, etc., etc. I thought he was going to attack me! but thought the better of it, apparentlyl He certainly verbally threatened me!

    The manager of that city park in New Smyrna Beach in Fl was
    “transferred” because he tried to enforce the dog leash laws in that Park. The new manager is getting along just fine. IN fact
    a dog shower has recently been installed.

    At our “new” digs in Williston dogs are supposed to be under
    voice command where they are allowed to be off leash. I personally doubt that most dogs are that well trained. I’ve had
    a lot of dogs, supposedly under voice command, run at me,
    jump at me, sometimes bare their canines, etc.! So much for
    “under voice command”. I think it is basically wishful thinking.
    I wrote a letter to the public planning officer of the village about
    this problem and so far as I know nothing ever changed. I
    suggested they have an officer check occasionally to see if the
    village ordinance was enforced. I never saw an officer there.
    I furthermore suggested that if they weren’t going to enforce
    their stated ordinance then they should take the sign down.
    Better to be honest than hypocritical.

    At the village public park here many folks ignore the sign that says dogs are to be leashed (they go 10 M or so from the sign and unleash their dogs). Another sign indicates they are supposed to use “poop” bags. Many (Not all!) people do but some of those who do just drop the filled bags on the paved walkway (well, at least they did obey the letter of the law). I’ve seen this many times. I’d loved to know the reasoning of a person who thinks this kind of behavior is acceptable. Perhaps
    they are incapable of reasoning?

    Anyhow, this is a huge problem and it’s not getting any better.

    I think archeologists in 2200 or so will refer to this century, at least for the USA, as the century where dogs and cats are treated as surrogate children, if not better. Intellectually, especially from the psychological view, it is an extremely pervasive phenomenon. In this extremely stressful, materially-oriented culture, dogs and cats seem to be providing a great deal of solace. They don’t talk back, they seem to love you all the time- what more could you ask?? One of the types of
    evidence that archeologists might find to support this contention
    will most likely the skeletons of both dogs and cats found
    entwined in baby carriages or cribs. Just go to Fl and you will
    see both dogs and cats being pushed in “baby” carriages
    very frequently. I don’t think the Pet Industry has gotten around
    to making dog and cat “baby” carriages yet. This has all taken
    place extremely fast, in my view. That is, this type of canid/felid
    hominid like mutualism.

    Anyhow, back to pleasant thoughts. I’ve enjoyed your many
    posts accompanied by beautiful photography.

    Don Miller

  10. Linda Wurm says:

    I own 2 dogs. I abhor stepping in dog bombs. I don’t like it when my dogs step in dog bombs. My dogs remain on leash as they are not to be trusted when a critter tempts them,so I know where they poop.
    It has happened that I find myself “bagless” I find several really large leaves and make a real effort to clean up.

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