FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – With the arrival of warm weather, a walk in the woods with your dog would seem to be a simple pleasure for human and pooch alike. Fairfield County conservation leaders warn, however, that one person’s pleasure can also be a big problem for others and for wildlife.
Several Fairfield County conservation and open space preservation leaders have united to educate the public on the risks involved with walking dogs in open areas. The organizations include the Aspetuck Land Trust, Redding Land Trust, Wilton Land Conservation Trust, and the Nature Conservancy.
“While we encourage people to get outside and connect with nature at our conserved open space areas we ask that our visitors also respect each other, the wildlife and the natural resources that make these places special and valuable to our communities,” said David Brant, executive director of Aspetuck Land Trust, which owns properties in Weston, Easton, Westport and Fairfield.
To enjoy the outdoors with your pet responsibly, dog walkers must first understand the different regulations in place for the parks and open space preserves they visit.
Local lands managed by The Nature Conservancy do not allow dogs at all, including Devil’s Den, Katharine Ordway Preserve and Centennial Watershed State Forest. The Aspetuck Land Trust, Redding Land Trust, Wilton Land Conservation Trust and the town of Redding allow off leash dogs on some trails but on other trails they are prohibited or must be leashed. Dogs must be under control at all times.
The partnering organizations offer these tips to help dog owners and their dogs enjoy the outdoors responsibly and avoid conflict:
- Know and follow the regulations posted at the places you plan to visit. Call ahead or visit the websites of the respective preserves in advance to find out specific regulations. Aspetuck Land Trust offers a collection of resources on its website for this purpose.
- If you walk your dog off leash but can’t depend on the dog to always come to you quickly on command, keep your dog on leash until you create a better re-call habit for your dog.
- Avoid situations where an on-leash dog interacts with an off-leash dog.
- Know your dog’s limitations and behavior triggers.
- If a dog is in conflict with another dog and aggressive behavior is present or seems possible, it is your responsibility to protect and control your dog.
- Leave no trace. Many land trusts have policies that require pet owners to pick up and remove their waste.
“Ground nesting birds can be chased from their nests by free-running dogs either on purpose or inadvertently. If it happens often, the birds won’t return to the nest and reproduction cycles are interrupted, reducing wildlife,” said Milan Bull, senior director of Science and Research for the Connecticut Audubon Society.