SUPPORTS THE DOG PARK
I have been frequenting dog parks around the country for 9 years, the lifetime of my dog Daisy. We continue to visit dog parks to socialize and exercise, but we must travel to Lewiston, Portland or Conway. For Daisy and me, a dog park in Bethel would be a blessing. If you have not been to a dog park, you might not understand how it works, the benefit to dogs and owners or the value it adds to a community. Some of these have been addressed in other letters and articles, but for the benefit of those who are not familiar with dog parks, let me address a couple of concerns that have been voiced.
Regarding cleaning up after dogs: in all my visits to dog parks, this has never been an issue. Owners know it is their responsibility to clean up after their own dogs which they do willingly in order to maintain a clean and enjoyable environment. And if an owner happens to miss a dropping, others are happy to point it out. Peer pressure for responsible behavior for owners and dogs is quite effective.
Another concern has been the issue of liability. While generally dogs are better behaved when they are socializing off-leash, dogs will be dogs, and a bite here and there can occur. In researching this topic, I have discovered that according to Maine Statute, when a dog causes damage or injury, the owner or keeper of the dog is liable in civil action. I have found a few legal cases of civil actions as a result of events in dog parks around the country, but all of the cases were between individuals with no legal involvement of the municipality. According to the rules for the dog park, dogs must always be controlled by their owners and any dog that becomes aggressive must be leashed and removed.
Finally, regarding the necessity of a dog park: the question should not be whether it is necessary for Bethel to have a dog park, but rather, is it a benefit to the community? The committee is asking only for a space and is willing to fund-raise for the expenses to build it. We want to give Bethel a gift. Who wouldn’t want a gift that many will enjoy even if it is not a necessity? Bethel has a place for many people to enjoy a variety of activities from skateboarding to skiing, snowmobiling to canoeing. Even though I do not participate in all of these, I appreciate that many people enjoy them, they bring people to Bethel and they enhance our community. I would hope that the townspeople view the dog park in a like manner and recognize that it is a benefit to Bethel, even if not everyone will chose to use it. I would hope the townspeople view it as a gift to the town since it will be built at no expense to the taxpayers. The park has a place children can play together, so a place for dogs and their owners to play together would only add to the beneficial features of the park area.