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    Parks: Putting some bite into leash laws

    To leash, or not to leash? That, more than any other question, is sure to spark an uproar in public parks. No matter where the battle plays out, the fault line falls in the same place, with dog owners and walkers who wish to let their pups run free on one side and, on the other, park visitors with children who wish to visit open spaces free of dog bites and smelly surprises smashed to the soles of their shoes.

    This question is dividing visitors to the Breakheart Reservation, a 640-acre, state-owned hardwood forest in Saugus and Wakefield. A group called The Friends of Breakheart Reservation has started an online petition demanding that the Department of Conservation and Recreation better enforce its leash law. The petition follows several dog attacks - against humans, other dogs, and even wild turkeys, according to group members.

    DCR thought it had tackled the problem by creating “Bark Place,’’ a park within the park where dogs are permitted to roam off-leash. That was a reasonable compromise, but some dog owners continued to unleash their pets outside the designated area. DCR should take further steps to ensure that all parkgoers follow its rules, by stepping up fines and recruiting more monitors - perhaps even volunteers. If dog owners still can’t follow the rules, the agency should consider banning dogs altogether. That would be unfortunate, but the safety of the reservation’s human guests should come first.