Sue Grant: Why does leash law apply everywhere but on old state hospital grounds?
NORTHAMPTON — A recent column about problems with unleashed dogs running along a path by the Mill River (“Many views, one law on leash rule,” Sept. 27) made the comment that the area across the river, near the Northampton Community Gardens, was a tacit unleashed dog area.
The implication was that people should take their dogs there and let them run wild so they wouldn’t bother people on the Smith College side of the river.
I looked up the word “tacit.” It means “silent, saying nothing; understood without being openly expressed.” That is really apt, because the area near the Community Gardens has become a hazardous place thanks to silent neglect by Northampton’s city officials.
This city has had a leash law for more than a decade, and signs reminding people to keep their dogs leashed are found in downtown Northampton, Florence center and at every park, playground and conservation area — except for this place.
Formerly part of an old state mental hospital, the land is now leased by Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, part of the city’s public school system. But far from being a safe place for hikers, birders, runners and even people who want to walk their dogs there on a leash, it is a pleasant-looking place full of danger.
Unleashed dogs run all over the area. They jump on, scratch and occasionally bite human beings and defenseless leashed dogs. It is only a matter of time before such attacks cause more serious injuries and possibly deaths.
As far as this area is concerned, the Northampton City Council pretends that there is no leash law. The mayor of Northampton pretends that there is no leash law. The Northampton Board of Health pretends that there is no leash law.
I speak from personal experience here, because I tried to get these guardians of public safety to enforce the leash law and post the land with signs to inform the public of it. I was met with total inactivity.
No city authority ever publicly decreed, and no city vote ever publicly approved, making this area somehow exempt from the city’s leash law, a law passed to protect public safety.
It is time for Northampton’s city officials to quit their silent complicity with a hazardous situation, and start to enforce the leash law.
Silence means consent, they say, but no voters here have ever consented to this dangerous and irresponsible evasion of the law.
End the silence, enforce the law, and make this land safe for all of us.
Sue Grant lives in Northampton.