NAUGATUCK — Dog enthusiast’s moods were lifted Tuesday night by an announcement of five potential locations for a proposed dog park, but were subsequently dashed by a presentation that highlighted the challenges of creating such a facility.
Park Commissioner Pat Wagner said the sites the borough is looking into are: Field Street, which is located behind Baummer Park; Apple Hill Estates, an undeveloped sub-division; a meadow near the back of Fairchild Park; Brittany Woods, which is located behind the Naugatuck Industrial Park; and The Heights, a site located behind the Naugatuck Police Department.
Directly following Wagner’s presentation of prospective dog park sites at Tuesday’s meeting of the Park and Recreation Commission, Animal Control Officer Kristy Sturges approached the microphone, preempting her presentation admitting she was about to inform the crowd of “mostly cons” about their dream for a dog park facility.
“There are many things that need to be considered before jumping in to make this decision,” Sturges said. “You need to worry about keeping dogs in the park, separating the small and large dogs, getting volunteers to control the location, checking dogs’ collars and vaccination records, and protecting citizens occupying the park. There are a lot of things people don’t think about but absolutely need to be considered.”
In addition, Sturges said, the park could cost the borough more money than it is anticipating. She noted volunteers willing to help may need to be trained to work with animals. Also, a water supply may be required for hydration.
Furthermore, in anticipation of violations on the parts of dog owners not following the rules, Sturges said the borough would need to develop a group to enforce rules and punish offenders.
Lastly — and possibly the biggest red flag for the borough — is the possibility of civil lawsuits Sturges warned could be incurred if anyone is injured. She said dog-on-dog violence may be a small concern, but if a dog attacks a person, and that person sustains injuries, big legal problems could ensue.
“I can guarantee that the borough will be named in a lawsuit if someone is hurt badly enough,” Sturges said.
Rocky Vitale, an early advocate of the dog park proposal, refuted some of Sturges warnings following her presentation.
“What we’re trying to do with this dog park is to promote responsible dog ownership,” he said. “We’re hoping the dog park is going to alleviate some of the problems we already have around town with dogs.”
His responses were meant with cheers from the residents in attendance. He urged that some of the problems Sturges presented could be taken care of by dog owners themselves.
“You can’t control irresponsible owners,” said Vitale. “I think it should be up to the people in the park to patrol themselves.”
He also pointed that the cost to the borough could be minimal in the long run.
“After the initial charges the dog park will be cheaper than anything else that is run in this town,” Vitale opined.
The Park Commission hopes to visit and evaluate the proposed sites and discuss them further in their next monthly meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 14.