LONDONDERRY | A proposed ordinance would prohibit dogs from athletic field complexes during games as a means of safeguarding children.

The proposal for Nelson Field, a 47-acre complex located behind Town Hall, and Continental Park on West Road will come to a public hearing before Town Council on July 12. It needs council approval to go on the books.

Recreation Director Art Psaledas said the proposal came before the eight-member Recreation Commission after a child was scratched by a dog at one of the parks. The commission is recommending the proposal.

The original proposal was to ban dogs from the parks entirely, but the commission softened its proposal to allow dogs except when games are being played.

Town manager Dave Caron is still putting together the ordinance. Psaledas said common sense should be the guiding principle in determining what a game or athletic event is.

Tuesday morning at Nelson Field, a perfect day for people and pets, most parents and dog owners polled on the proposal thought it was OK to bring dogs to the parks, as long as they are leashed, cleaned up after and kept away from children.

Ramona Ennis of King Charles Drive walks her 5-year-old Labrador Charlie on a leash four times a week on Nelson Park trails.

"All of the fields are fenced off, so I'm not taking my dog on the fields and letting him run wild," she said. Charlie sat on his stomach beyond the basketball courts blinking in the sunlight.

On the court shooting hoops, former Londonderry High School basketball player Tim Finnegan said he sees no problem with dogs at the complex as long as they are leashed and under control.

"You can't have a bunch of kids kicking around and then have a dog coming running through," Finnegan said.

Several parents said their children are deathly afraid of dogs, but as long as the animals are leashed, they have no problem with dogs in the parks.

"I think if it's leashed it's OK," said Anna Cook, leaving the park's tennis courts. Cook has two daughters, 6 and 3.

Baseball coach Brian Johnson concurs, so long as owners leave aggressive dogs at home.

But parent Ed Fedele believes dogs have no place at the park unless they are seeing-eye dogs or otherwise help people with medical problems.

"Keep the dogs out of here," Fedele said. "I have a 7-year-old daughter, and she is petrified of dogs the whole time she is here."

Several people said the town could be courting vagueness with the provision that prohibits canines during a game. They still wonder how officials will decide what constitutes a game.

The group wants to balance parental and pet owner interests in asking the council to approve the proposal.

Psaledas, whose family keeps a menagerie of pets | a dog, five cats, two goats, three horses and a goldfish | said it doesn't make sense to have dogs running around with so many children at play.

The town manager said he knows of no children being bitten at the complexes, but there have been a few "close calls."

At the park, itinerant farm worker Peter Egan and his dog, Jordan, a Belgian shepherd, cooled off after a dash through the park's forest trails. Jordan, a red and brown dog, lay on his side, his tongue lolling from his mouth. Jordan likes to hunt woodchuck at Egan's work place, Mack's Apple Orchard.

Egan thinks dogs should be allowed in the Nelson woods but not on the fields.

"I just keep him away from people," Egan said.

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