It’s good to be a dog in Worcester again.
Dogs have been having all kinds of illegal fun — sniffing the grass, playing catch, trotting with their owners and rolling on their backs — in city parks for close to 20 years.
Now, all this is as legal as it’s natural. The City Council has reversed its old ordinance and is allowing dogs in city parks. They must be leashed, and are still prohibited from playgrounds and the four city beaches, but otherwise the restraints are off.
Not only that, the city is making progress on eventually siting a few dog parks, instead of sitting on the issue for years. Thursday’s meeting of the council’s Youth, Parks and Recreation Committee saw the beginning of narrowing the list of 12 proposed sites to four.
This city of zero dog parks is aiming for at least five within the next three years. We urge Worcester officials to remember that the number isn’t so important as that each dog park undertaken is done right. They should be accessible, non-intrusive to nearby property owners, offer excellent exercise opportunities — and be built within three people years.
The 1997 ordinance that prohibited dogs in Worcester parks was seldom enforced. Even so, it hung uneasily over dog owners, who pay annual licensing fees and who, by and large, are responsible about picking up after their dogs and keeping them monitored and behaved.
Stepping back from this particular issue, it’s worth saying now and then that, in general, people are their most reasonable when the rules are too.
Certainly there will be problem animals and problem owners under the new regulations, as there were under the old — but the change makes sense. Worcester is comparatively wealthy in terms of green spaces, and dogs are wonderful companions who aren’t going anywhere. The city wisely realized it needs to accommodate these widely beloved pets and adopt a more welcoming approach.
The change is a small shift, perhaps, and of course one not everyone will like. But a government that is careful not to overregulate and annoy its citizens, and listens to their wishes, is one that commands respect.
So, score one for the tail-wagging Frisbee-catchers.
We can (because we must) even accept the little dig the city couldn’t help getting in among all this benevolence. While increasing doggie freedom, Worcester tacked $10 extra onto the annual dog licensing fees. What once cost $20 will now be $30 (and from $17 to $25 for spayed and neutered dogs).
Grrr. Guess we’ll buy the cheap dog food for a few weeks.
We hope the city will return the extra cash directly to its 60 parks. Collectively, they are a city asset that deserve all the attention they can get, and all the visits, too — from citizens as well as their citizen dogs.
On a leash, of course, for the latter.