Brookline Considers Fee to Unleash Dogs in Parks

In Brookline, Selectmen are considering a plan that would allow Brookline residents to unleash their dogs in 14 local parks for $50 per year, per dog. Persons who do not live in Brookline would have to pay $100 a year.

The Park and Recreation Commission of Brookline is asking for the fee to fund a park ranger position and to pay for oversight of the Green Dog Program, Brookline’s off-leash initiative that allows dog owners to unleash their dogs during certain hours and in certain areas.

Some dog owners are opposing the fee, complaining that dog owners shouldn’t have to pay a fee to unleash their dogs in public parks because other people don’t have to pay fees to engage in unorganized activities in the parks. Others seem to be neutral or happy to pay the fee to help fund the ranger.

The fee has been considered since 2008, but officials have held off until now. The fees are expected to bring about $30,000 into the town. The Green Dog Program costs about $55,000 per year.

Fee or no fee, dog owners need to be careful about unleashing their dogs in public parks. If the dog injures another person or causes damage, then the owner will be strictly liable (unless the injured person was teasing or abusing the dog or trespassing) under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140 § 155. Even when an owner is confident that their dog has a good disposition and will not bite or harm another person, it’s important to remember that dogs are animals and can snap. About 800,000 people in the United States require medical attention for dog bites every year, most of them children. So, whether these Brookline residents will have to pay fees or not, they should keep this in mind when they enjoy off-leash time with their dogs.

Source: The Boston Globe, Brookline eyes $50 fee to let dogs off the leash

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