Mandating Common Sense


Common sense and courtesy. Those two attributes are strikingly missing from the Presidential campaigning we’ve been subjected to this electoral season, and we’d really like to see them back as the norm.

But they can’t be legislated into action, in spite of how much we’d like to see people exhibit those qualities.

And they’re at the forefront in Londonderry, where the Town Council is diligently working to legislate responsible dog ownership. If all dog owners showed common sense and courtesy, there’d be no problem.

But even as towns continue to have trouble getting residents to register their dogs each April, the Londonderry Town Council voted May 2 to revise its animal control ordinance to keep dogs out of town cemeteries and require that they be leashed on the Rail Trail. Dogs must also be under direct control of their handler – either via leash or voice – while on other public property, including town trails, and owners must remove their dogs’ waste.

Fortunately, the Council did not go so far as to raise the penalty for habitual offenders of the ordinance from a $25 fine to a misdemeanor. As Police Chief Bill Hart succinctly told the Council, “in the most strong language, I advise against turning people whose dogs run at large into criminals.”

Now that’s a good example of common sense.

But because no one can mandate common sense, eradicate rude behavior or require courtesy, some dog owners will continue to let their dogs run onto and foul neighbors’ lawns or public property. As the town opens more trails, that will increase. And the changes in the ordinance will thus require both public education and police enforcement.

We’d rather see police combat crime – burglaries, for example – instead of seeking violators of the “scoop the poop” ordinance. But without patrols of public areas, it’s going to be difficult for police to locate the offenders. Boosting the hours of the currently part-time animal control officer would help, but that costs money.

All this while a multi-year effort to establish a dog park has met with the expected NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard – responses and sits moribund. While a dog park is not the answer to all dog issues, it offers a place where canines can run free without damaging or trespassing on other property. Let’s return to pursuing that option.

And in the meantime, a hearty dose of common sense and courtesy will go a long way, at no expense, to coexisting with man’s best friend – and its owners.