Patricia Ramsey: Enjoyment of conservation areas is often ruined by unleashed dogs

  • Addie, center, a 2-year-old yellow lab, shakes off after a dip in the Fort River during a trip to Amherst's Wentworth Farm Conservation Area. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Friday, May 03, 2019

I would like to thank a recent letter writer for raising concerns about unleashed dogs on the Norwottuck Rail Trail and other conservation areas in and near Amherst.

As a frequent walker and cyclist, I have noticed a sharp increase in the number of unleashed dogs over the past couple of years. The culture of dog owners seems to have shifted from honoring the law requiring all dogs be leashed to ignoring it.

Recently, I was walking in the Wentworth Conservation Area and saw 12 different dogs, and not a single one was on a leash — despite the large sign at the entrance to the area saying that all dogs must be leashed. I love to walk or cycle in our wonderful conservation areas, but my enjoyment been marred by the increasing number of unleashed dogs.

Now, when I see a dog approaching, I anxiously peer ahead to see if the dog is on a leash. If it is, then I can relax. If not, then I have to consider what defensive maneuvers I can take to avoid a confrontation. This is especially crucial when I am riding my bike because — as the letter writer described — a collision between a cyclist and dog is likely to cause injuries to one or both parties.

The absence of leashes is especially threatening when there is more than one dog. Recently, I have seen several groups of five to six unleashed dogs accompanied by a single person. While dogs and their owners may enjoy their unleashed freedom, this choice impinges on others’ freedom to enjoy a worry-free walk or bike ride.

Our conservation areas are open to all, and everyone should be free to use them and not be harassed or frightened by unleashed dogs. The leash law is there to protect people and dogs alike and to avoid unpleasant and potentially dangerous confrontations. I urge dog owners and paid dog walkers to please be considerate of others and obey the leash law.

Patricia Ramsey