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Select Board Enacts Comprehensive Leash Law For Duration of Pandemic

by Connie Sartini
At their virtual meeting on Monday, April 27, the Select Board voted 4 to 1 (John Giger) to order that all dogs remain on a leash whether on public property or private property to which the public has access during the COVID 19 crisis.
     This is not a permanent change to Chapter 128 – Dogs of the Town of Groton code. This is effective April 27, 2020 through the end of the emergency. All dogs must be leashed.
     At the April 21 meeting, Select Board member Becky Pine asked if the board would consider instituting a temporary leash law during the state of emergency relative to COVID-19.
     According to Town Manager Mark Haddad, MGL Chapter 40 gives the Select Board the authority to take action to protect the public’s safety. In addition, at the March 18, 2020 meeting the Select Board passed an Emergency Declaration to “facilitate and expedite the use of resources to protect persons and property from the impacts of COVID 19.
     In Town Counsel’s opinion, the statutes cited in the Emergency Declaration provide the authority to the Select Board to require that dogs be leashed on all public and private property in town provided that the order is limited to the time that the state emergency is in effect.
     The reason that caused this concern is that there are reportedly a lot of dogs loose on trails and land owned by conservation groups. Animal Control Officer Tom Delaney pointed out that the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, and Mass. Wildlife have leash laws, and that New England Forestry Foundation now has one for their properties. Animal Control Officer George Moore added that unless the dog is on the property of the owner, it has to be leashed.
     Groton Police Chief Michael Luth advised the Board that without the bylaw, the Police Department can’t enforce it. This order will be enforced by the Groton Police Department pursuant to MGL Chapter 40, non-criminal disposition as outlined in Chapter 128 DOGS in the Town of Groton Code. He added that last year in the months of March and April, there were more dog bites and more loose dogs than in previous years.
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