HARRISON — Yes, it’s known as “The Friendly Village.”

But does that mean “dog friendly?”

Town Manager Bud Finch got a call from a woman recently who asked, “Is Harrison a dog-friendly town?”

“I didn’t know what she meant,” he said. Although there was no intimation on the part of the caller that the town isn’t, in fact, dog friendly, changes in the town’s dog ordinance may be forthcoming.

One of the attributes of a dog-friendly town, according to the website dogchannel.com, is a fenced-in dog park where dogs can run free and play with other dogs. Harrison doesn’t have one, but it does have two fenced-in ball fields at the town’s RADR sports complex off Route 117.

Absent any ball games this time of year, some dog owners have decided this is the perfect place to let Fido run free without fear he’ll take off into the woods and get sprayed by a skunk.

But here’s where the situation can get real stinky. Although some dog owners conscientiously pick up the poop, there’s no way to pick up the pee.

Recreation director Paula Holt cringes when she thinks about the health problems this could create for the kids who are running through, sliding through or rolling on the grass.

Holt said she and others at the town office welcome visits by well-behaved four-legged friends, but she added, “I worry about the health and safety of our kids out on the fields.”

Noting that only a small portion of the RADR land has been developed, Holt said there’s plenty of room to fence off an area for dogs and their owners.

“If everyone pitched in, we could fence off an area for a dog park,” Holt said.

Only 19 of the 121 acres donated by summer resident Scott Isdaner have been developed, according to Town Clerk Judy Colburn. RADR stands for the first letter of each of Isdaner’s four children. A fifth child was named Harrison, according to assistant Town Clerk Sharon Wilson.

Complaints about dogs soiling the recreation fields and dog walkers not picking up poop on the sidewalks in the friendly village prompted Finch to suggest selectmen take a look at the town’s existing dog ordinance. It dates from 1994 and has three conditions under which dog owners can be fined:

(1) female dogs “in season” roaming at large;

(2) dogs roaming who cause “damage to persons or property” or become a nuisance by barking; and

(3) dogs who aren’t roaming but disturb the peace “by loud, frequent and habitual barking, howling or yelping.”

Fines range from $10 to $100.

Selectmen plan to tackle the canine control issue at their 7:15 p.m. Thursday meeting.

Tuesday’s voting provided an opportunity for residents to weigh in on the dog-friendly issue and whether the town should change its ordinance.

“Now you’re getting ‘city-fied,’” said Joan Jack, who sat down to enjoy a cup of hot tea in the Recreation Center Cafe after casting her ballot. Of the town’s 1,882 registered voters, 855, or 45 percent, voted in the off-year election. The cafe in the garage next to the voting room raises money for the rec department and offers people a chance to socialize and enjoy home-cooked food.

“I don’t know if this is a dog-friendly town,” Jack said. “I don’t even know if we have a dog warden.” (Robert Larrabee is the canine control officer.)

She and her husband, Daniel, who live on the Buck Road, said they’ve seen no problems with dogs since they retired here six years ago. Their Lab-border collie mix, Missy, has free rein when she goes outside, but never ventures beyond the curve in their 700-foot-long driveway.

“I think a dog park is a great idea,” she said, “especially for people who don’t have a long driveway like we do.”

Her neighbor, Richard Janerico, who lives on Maple Ridge Road with his 11-pound dog, Abby, said, “As long as a dog doesn’t come up and bite me, I consider it’s a dog-friendly town.”

Arlin Bigelow, who lives on Route 117 and has four dogs, has been working for the town part time for more than 30 years, looking after the grounds near Crystal Lake and the library.

“People are good about cleaning up after their dogs,” he said.

The city of Lewiston opened its first dog park this summer. Portland has eight places where dogs are allowed to roam off leash, and Maine has more than 300 dog-friendly parks, beaches and trails, according to “Dog Parks in Maine,” a book listed on the website, downeastdognews.com.

Other attributes of a dog-friendly town, besides a dog park, are the number of businesses that allow dogs to come in, hotels and motels that allow dogs, proximity and availability of veterinarians, laws that protect dogs, and whether there are special events for dogs.

There’s at least one business in Harrison where employees can bring their dogs with them to work. It’s ELMS Puzzles, on Hobbs Hill Lane, a nationally known company that produces elegant custom wooden jigsaw puzzles.

And any dog who helps get the family refuse to the transfer station can usually expect a free bone from one of the attendants.

Town Clerk Judy Colburn has an unequivocal answer to the question of whether her town is dog-friendly. “We absolutely are a dog-friendly town,” she said.


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