ORLEANS — The animal control and regulation task force takes a wide view of its responsibility to recommend actions to get things right for the town’s dog owners and non-dog owners.
Urging the group to consider future recommendations on “regulations and expectations” on Dec. 2, chairman Karl Oakes advised that “we want to give ourselves flexibility to be able to do certain things by trying to enforce a custom as opposed to making a regulation. We don’t want to make it a regulation or nothing. (Something) can be an expectation that’s enforced by dog owners with other dog owners.”
Joining in the spirit of the exercise, member Ed Bagdonas said, “A dog regulation would be that when you’re on the beach, your dog must be leashed. (An expectation) would be if your dog is off-leash, it’s good policy to put it on a leash if there’s a family with small children. One is a rule you can get cited for. The other is how to make Orleans a dog-friendly town.”
Such was the back and forth as the task force drilled down through 15 potential objectives put together by Bob Sinclair from suggestions by fellow members and tasks listed in the selectmen’s charge to the group. These included identifying the specifics of dissatisfaction in the community regarding the town’s existing dog policies and enforcement practices and helping summer visitors, part-time residents, and guests from neighboring towns better understand the rules and expectations of the community.
Member Jessica Brown liked the objective of getting more people involved in having Orleans recognized as a dog-friendly town. “I think this is meant to bridge the gap between all people in the community who own dogs and don’t own dogs,” she said. “It creates a conversation.” She said people from other towns come to Orleans because their communities are not dog-friendly.
“I’m trying to be honest about the fact that not everybody wants Orleans to be recognized as a dog-friendly town,” Oakes said. He suggested the objective reflect an attempt “to maintain Orleans as a recognized dog-friendly town while at the same time realistically addressing the problems that causes.”
Other draft objectives include identifying existing regulations that may need to be changed, including those that separately address conservation and town land; strengthening compliance with regulations; and making sure that decisions about access and other dog-related matters are made openly through a process that includes proper public notice and comment.
“Our charge says to review all rules and regulations and come back with recommendations,” member David Abel said. “Within that, is one beach different than another beach? We have to come up with answers for that… We may say Skaket is one way and Nauset is another way.”
The draft objectives list includes identifying “new lands in Orleans that may be opened for dog access consistent with current bylaws.” “Does it have to be ‘consistent?’ Oakes asked. “I’m thinking of the watershed.” The group appeared to agree.
Other directions include increasing knowledge about dog behavior and owner responsibility, and training opportunities to help owners gain appropriate control of their animals. Another would help dog owners and other members of the community understand their rights and responsibilities when using conservation and town-owned lands. “When it comes to lands like (Kent’s Point),” Brown said, “we’ve got to... find out ways we can all enjoy the property together.”
Bagdonas prepared a comparative grid of Orleans dog regulations and those of neighboring communities. The document can be viewed online here.