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Leominster dogs' pals want a park; Councilors seek space for Rover to run freely.

Byline: Mary Jo Hill

LEOMINSTER - Life in a city can be full of joys for a dog - fire hydrants to visit, garbage to sniff, pedestrians to bark at - but frolicking in an open field usually isn't one of the perks.

City Councilors Virginia A. Tocci and Richard M. Marchand hope to change that and give Leominster's 2,000 or so pooches a field of their own.

Ms. Tocci has proposed having the city review its inventory of open space to see if there's a 2- or 3-acre parcel that can be used as a dog park. The "leisure recreational site" would be used by dog owners with licensed dogs, according to the request.

The proposal has been referred to the council's City Property Committee for discussion.

Ms. Tocci, who brings her cockapoo, Mercedes, to work every day, said she was approached by local real estate agent and dog lover Peter McDonald about setting up the park.

Mr. McDonald has a goldendoodle - part golden retriever and part poodle - named Duke.

"He walks with him but they need more exercise than walking," Ms. Tocci said.

Mr. McDonald said the idea came up when Duke was playing with another dog at Carter Park and the other dog's owner broached the subject.

The space is needed so dogs can socialize with one another, he said.

Since word has gotten out about the proposed park, Ms. Tocci said, she has heard about more dog parks in the state than she ever knew existed. She is gathering information about the proposal and hopes she can lobby the council.

Boston is considering whether to set up its

first sanctioned dog park in the South End in Peters Park, which is being used as an unofficial dog space, according to The Boston Globe.

Ms. Tocci said she can't believe how many people have dogs in Leominster, but not all the dogs have a big yard to run in.

She envisions a fenced-in park where owners can unleash their pets. Perhaps it could include a separate, fenced-in area for smaller dogs, she said.

And more than just the pets would benefit. "It would be more like a social event for the owners," she said.

Mr. Marchand, council president, said Ms. Tocci asked if he would co-author the proposal and he agreed. Before the last council meeting, one of their colleagues jokingly referred to the pair as the "anti-cat crowd."

Yesterday, Mr. Marchand called the park a good idea. "In the scheme of recreation and the use of open space, pets are absolutely included in the consideration," he said.

The constituency in question includes about 2,000 licensed dogs, according to the city clerk's office.

Mr. Marchand said his daughter took her pet to a dog park in Sarasota, Fla., where canines can romp in a fenced-in area.

"People can bring their pets there for socialization skills," he said. And people who don't own dogs can go there to enjoy the animals' company, he said.

There are fields in the city for sports, but a number of them are posted so pets aren't allowed there, although some pet owners don't comply with the rules, Mr. Marchand said.

Leominster has a leash law, and the question of whether the dogs would be leashed in such a park would have to be determined, he said. Perhaps a local kennel club would provide guidance on ground rules for the park and help manage the site, he said.

Being able to "run amok" is healthy for dogs, and there aren't any locations in Leominster where these pets can just let go and run, he said.

NAME: LEOMINSTER CITY COUNCIL
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 31, 2007
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