Stonington bans dogs from athletic fields, playgrounds

Stonington — The town has banned dogs and any other animals from all school athletic fields and playgrounds.

The ban, which the Board of Selectmen approved Wednesday night, comes after a series of incidents in which dogs bit people and each other on or along the fields, according to First Selectman Rob Simmons.

Exceptions will be made for service, guide or assistance dogs as defined by law or dogs used by law enforcement or fire departments for search and rescue operations or training.

The ban also requires the approval of the Board of Education. On Thursday night, the school board approved policy with the addition of allowing all service animals, not just service dogs, on the fields. In addition, board members recommended the town pursue creating an off-leash area for dogs. The board said it reserves the right to rescind the new rules if the off-leash area is not pursued.

Simmons said the attacks have resulted in people having to go to the hospital for treatment and to get stitches to close wounds. He said the dog bites involved both leashed and unleashed dogs, whose owners brought them to events or for exercise. Many of the incidents have occurred at the athletic fields and playground behind the high school. Some dog owners also let their dog run free in Spellman Park behind the high school.

While there are signs telling dog owners that dogs are not allowed in these areas, there were no rules and regulations allowing police to take actions against violators. The rules passed Wednesday will allow police to take enforcement action for trespassing.

The rules were created by the Recreation Commission after looking at similar bans in other communities.

Human Services Director Leanne Theodore, whose office oversees recreation, said that in addition to the safety issue, dogs are also relieving themselves on the fields.

According to the rules, no animals are allowed at any town- or school-sponsored event or on any athletic fields, sidewalks or walkways leading to and from the fields and playground within Spellman Park.

The rules also apply to any athletic fields at the high school, middle school and the two elementary schools and the school district office at the former Pawcatuck Middle School.

Pet owners can bring animals on a leash not to exceed 7 feet in length to parks such as Haley’s Way, the Town Dock and Spellman Park. Dogs are banned from the enclosed Town Dock playground, while in Spellman Park, leashed dogs are allowed in the park areas, the east and west pavilion areas, and on the nature trails and roadways.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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