Dog owners who like to rough it at state campgrounds in Connecticut with their faithful friends have only a handful of camping areas to choose from.
In fact, only four of the state’s 14 campgrounds are dog-friendly, according to the Hartford Currant.
Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, thinks that’s too few.
After talking to constituents a few months ago, Meyer, chairman of the environment committee, introduced a bill that would encourage the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adopt regulations that would allow dogs at up to seven state campgrounds.
The bill is not a mandate and allows the DEP to use its discretion. Meyer called it a family values bill in the sense that many families want to vacation with their pets. Meyer himself has a Labrador retriever named Mo and said he would like to take her more places.
The DEP is open to the idea but must balance expanded opportunities for dog owners with the needs and concerns of other campers, said Dennis Schain, the department’s spokesman.
Alysia Duke of Manchester, owner of two miniature schnauzers, said she has fond memories of childhood camping trips with her family. Although she has not been camping in years, Duke, president of the nonprofit Manchester Dog Owners Group, said she believes that responsible dog owners should be able to share camping experiences with their pets.
Some people do not go on vacation at all because their dogs are not allowed, or because they have no one to care for the dog while they are gone, she said.
Meyer’s bill passed the Connecticut Senate on a 34-2 vote last week and is awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, was one of the two no votes. “I just don’t see the need for this legislation,” Fasano told colleagues last week. He said the DEP has the right to allow dogs in the parks regardless of the legislation.
At a March public hearing, DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella said allowing dogs at more campgrounds could raise issues of pet waste, late-night barking, potential aggressive behavior, and negative impacts on wildlife.
The bill does include provisions meant to protect campers. It would limit the number of dogs a person may have at a campsite and require owners to prove that their pet has been vaccinated. It would also require people to control their dogs.
The DEP already has rules regarding dogs.
One pet per site is currently allowed at Austin Hawes Campground at the American Legion State Forest in Barkhamsted and at Green Falls and Mount Misery campgrounds at Pachaug State Forest in Volutown. Two dogs per site are allowed at Salt Rock Campground in Baltic. All dogs must be held on leashes no more than 7 feet long; they cannot be left unattended and must have up-to-date rabies vaccinations.
Before making any decisions regarding the campgrounds, Schain said, the DEP would consult with park supervisors to develop a list of potential places to allow dogs and would seek public comment through the regulation-making process.
The DEP currently allows dogs at all state parks if they are leashed and under control, Schain added. Dogs, however, are not allowed on state park beaches during the summer.