Waterville Valley “Town Ordinance #7,” aka the “leash law,” is a local, enforceable law that states:
“It shall be unlawful for the owner or the keeper of a dog to allow said dog to run at large in the Town of Waterville Valley. “At large” means not under the control of the owner or any person by means of personal presence and attention and/or by means of physical restraint so as to control the conduct of such dog.”
Therein lies a problem. For such a small town, there are a lot of dogs around Waterville Valley. Because we are a rural community surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest, dog owners tend to think, hey, we’re in the woods, and New Hampshire is the Live Free or Die state, so I can let my dog run free!
Then there are the dog owners who believe, my dog is an angel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard owners of an unleashed dog that comes charging at me and my dog say, “Oh, don’t worry…my dog is friendly…s/he doesn’t bite.”
In my case, the problem may not be your overly friendly dog. It’s MY dog. My always LEASHED somewhat antisocial and anxiety-ridden dog that was rescued from a frightening hoarders home in Arkansas. She spent harrowing days/weeks being transported in a crate to New England where she finally arrived at a foster family’s home in Warren, New Hampshire. My husband and I adopted her three years ago.
Missy’s anxiousness has subsided, but she’s still afraid of a lot of things. Men in hats, other dogs, people visiting our house, loud noises, children, aggressiveness in animals or humans. And she is part beagle. That means her nose rules. She can never be off-leash. If she was loose and saw an off-leash dog, a man in a hat, or got a whiff of a chipmunk, she’d be off like the wind.
One reader of my poop post sent me a message about her encounters with off-leash dogs in Waterville Valley. She wrote, “On an almost daily basis, I am approached while running by off-leash dogs, often with no owner in sight, and even more frequently, charged by off-leash dogs while walking my leashed dogs. I could call in several violations each week on these intentionally unleashed dogs who are obviously not under voice command…I usually get the “he’s friendly” comment. No leashed dog, friendly or not, appreciates being charged by an off-leash dog or two. To call in a violation pits neighbor against neighbor – never a positive thing, and especially not in a small town such as Waterville.”
Another reader commented, “Since I have been going to the Valley for 33 years it has become over run with dogs. It is no longer enjoyable to go to the Town Square and see so many dogs in tow. I have always been kind to animals, but I don’t enjoy looking at each dog and size to see if it might be friendly. I carefully scurt out of their way.”
I don’t want to sound like a dog curmudgeon or an animal hater. I am neither. But as our dog population continues to grow, and as our society comes to think of dogs as family members with the same rights as humans, we need to recognize that not everyone appreciates, understands or tolerates dogs. We may be in the middle of the forest, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe or appropriate for dogs to run free with little or no supervision. And it doesn’t mean we should forget our dog manners.
Here is a picture of my southern belle, Lil’ Missy and a photo of my sweet granddog, Willow. If you encounter us out on the trails, Missy and Willow WILL be leashed (and we scoop their poops). Leashing up or restraining your dog (and scooping his poop) would be greatly appreciated.