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Needham's off-leash dog park supporters hosting family dog show Sunday

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  October 1, 2013 02:04 PM

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They say that every dog has its day; for Needham dogs, that day is quickly approaching.

Supporters of an off-leash dog park in Needham are hosting a family dog show competition on Oct. 6 to benefit building the off-leash park to be located at the Nike missile site, which is estimated to cost $25,000 in private funds.

The Oct. 6 event at Claxton Field -- which has a rain date scheduled for Oct. 20 -- features classic dog show events with awards for the highest jumper, best trick, and best costume.

The event will also feature more laid-back categories for the "waggiest" tail, most adorable dog, and dogs who look the most like their owner.

There will also be a parade of the show pups at the event's finale.

All dogs must be over 4 months old, licensed with town officials, properly immunized and kept on-leash to compete. Entry costs $20 in advance, or $25 day of the event; each additional dog per family is $10.

The event's proceeds will go directly toward the private fund that will be used to build an off-leash dog park, which supporters have been striving toward for almost three years.

Mike Verdun, co-chair of the committee supporting the park, said he hopes to raise enough funds to build the large outdoor play pen by 2014.

"We're hoping to raise another couple thousand dollars from the dog show Sunday," he said.

The dog park would be located on a half-acre portion of the site, which was used to house missiles during the Cold War, located near Charles River Street and abutting the Ridge Hill Reservation. After the war, the space's ownership was transferred to the town and overseen by the School Committee, which has granted the dog park supporters temporary access to the parcel.

"This is strictly a temporary location for a pilot program," Verdun said. "We're hopeful the town would find a more permanent location down the road."

Board of Selectman chair Dan Matthews said a comprehensive site cleanup of contaminants was done in the 1990s, and that plans for a dog park should prove safe for both animals and humans.

"This looks like a good site for it," Matthews said, noting that he has only reviewed the park as a town official and has not been involved with starting it.

Verdun said the dog park is sorely needed: in Needham, there are 2,764 dogs licensed with the town, which is required of pet owners by law, according to the Needham Town Clerk’s office.

"I think this will be a very valuable community asset," Verdun said. "Many of my neighbors in my particular area of town approached me to say that they're dog owners, and there's no place in Needham to walk dogs off-leash - we have to leave Needham to do that."

Verdun said the town is looking closely at dog parks in neighboring communities like Brookline, Newton and Dedham to figure out how to fashion a local park and what type of rules to install.

For example, when the dog park opens in Needham, it will at first be available only to Needham residents, Verdun said. There would also be spot checks to make sure every dog in the park is licensed with the town.

"Needham has a part-time animal control officer that could help with that," he said.

But first, Verdun and his fellow supporters must raise $25,000 to clear the land and redesign it as a dog park, with pens both for small dogs and for medium to large dogs, as is common at most parks for pups.

Since the fundraising campaign started in June, the group has raised about $7,500, and supporters hope to rake in a few thousand dollars at Sunday's family dog show, Verdun said.

"The main expense is fencing - we want to fence in the park with a 5-foot high steel fence," he said. "We'll also need to put in some cleaning dispensing equipment, and trash cans. It's not sophisticated - it will be pretty simplistic to get it off the ground."

Matthews said even though he was not directly involved with starting the dog park, he thinks it could prove useful in town.

"It's something that’s really helpful," Matthews said. "We have a lot of dog owners, and a lot of their dogs are big active animals that can't really run that far on their own properties."

Matthews said dog owners sometimes find themselves at odds with the rest of Needham's population in public parks currently, even when their pets are on leashes and mostly behaving.

"There's been friction having dogs in the parks, because some people are afraid of dogs, or some owners don’t properly supervise or clean up after their dogs," he said. "This [dog park] will be a way that they can run and be safe and be with other dogs."

For more information on Sunday's family dog show, visit needhamdogpark.org or visit the group's Facebook page.

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourtownneedham, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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