Path of Leash Resistance

Parks Department, BFSNA calls on dog owners for renewed policing in Blackstone Square

The death of a small dog – hit by a car while being chased by two larger dogs out of Blackstone Square – has prompted the Parks Department to take action, and the Blackstone/Franklin Square Neighborhood Association (BFSNA) to go down the path of dogs vs. humans once again in the popular gathering space.
Parks Department Director Ryan Woods appeared at the BFSNA meeting on Tuesday and told of an incident recently where a smaller dog was on a leash in the Square. Two larger dogs came after the little dog non-aggressively, but scared it and it got loose from its owner. That dog bolted out of the park, he said, and was chased by the larger dogs. At one point while crossing the Washington Street, the smaller dog was run over and killed.
Woods said the owner of the dog and some witnesses had asked the Parks Department to get involved, which is what sparked the conversation at Tuesday’s meeting – an hour-long conversation that, predictably, got a little testy between dog owners and those that are not dog owners.
“Our goal is not to come in guns blazing and start ticketing and fining and telling people to get their dogs on the leash,” he said. “Our goal is to come in and work with the community to find solutions. You may see some signs going up to ask people to leash their dogs (in Blackstone Square).”
He and BFSNA President Toni Crothall said they would like to revive the dog group in Blackstone and Franklin Squares – two parks where, even though off-leash dogs aren’t allowed – it is tolerated and a community of dog-owners thrives there and has for some years.
BFSNA President Toni Crothall had been very positive – as had neighbors – last fall in the successes of the Human Quadrant system that has existed for a few years in the Squares. That system uses signs to announce to dog owners one Quadrant that doesn’t allow dogs at all, while the other three Quadrants are free game. Now, after the successes of last summer, the system isn’t working and the Parks Department said they want to engage with a dog group to get another option going.
Joe Schutt said The Square Dog is alive and well, and willing to help. While he said his group is responsible and preach responsibility, there are some dog owners that are more transient and don’t comply. Plus, he said the problem stems from the City not supporting dog owners.
“The incident was incredibly upsetting and sad for so many people,” he said. “It was a very unfortunate incident and the little dog was actually on a leash. Unfortunately it was a smaller dog that was intimidated by two larger dogs that were not aggressive – I want to make that clear – but as dog owners we need to pay attention to our dogs…Just because they aren’t aggressive doesn’t mean they aren’t intimidating.”
Schutt at the same time defended the dog community and said the real problem is having no spaces for dogs. While there are spaces for children in every park automatically, he said, there are rarely spaces for dogs and so owners are pushed to take their dogs to nearby parks and “unofficially” exercise them off-leash in an environment that’s less than perfect.
“Blackstone Square is not a dog park and we’re not trying to make it that,” he said. “But we do need space and the City needs to help us with that. It’s frustrating. We pay taxes, we pay mortgages and we don’t have a place to take our dogs.”
Others, mostly non-dog owners, said they do not appreciate the behavior of dogs and some dog owners in the Square right now – that it’s grown out of hand.
“I have to say Blackstone Square is not beautiful anymore because of dogs,” said John C. in a testy exchange with Schutt. “The place has defecation everywhere…There’s no human quadrant.”
Desi Murphy of Worcester Square said he has given up taking his young son to Blackstone and now most parents take their kids to Ringgold Park due to the over-abundance of dogs, many of them without great supervision.
He said he has had situations where he was coming back from the store with meat and unsupervised dogs got into the package as he rolled a stroller through the park.
“Of course, the dog that did this has an owner that isn’t paying attention and is testing on the phone,” he said. “I encourage a fenced in area.”
So does everyone else apparently.
Woods said that’s exactly the long-term plan he came to talk about for Blackstone Square. He said the dog group and the Friends of Blackstone Square could raise money to equip a section of the Square with fencing and the proper pea stone base or irrigation system. He said the Parks Department would support it, but it would take a huge amount of work from the Square Dog and the neighborhood to shepherd such a thing through South End Landmarks and other boards.
“I love the dog community and would love to see the dog community passionately behind raising $330,000 for a fenced-in area, really wanting to get dog info packets out, really wanting to overturn the passive park status with the City,” said Crothall. “It’s important to be part of a macro conversation.”
The matter was agreed to be taken up again and the Square Dog group is looking to strengthen and get more people involved. To contact Schutt at Square Dog, email [email protected].

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