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City Looks into Paw-Friendly Alternatives to Melt Ice

A dog's sore paws lead her owner to contact the City about looking into safe, affordable and pet-friendly solutions to traditional ice melts.

Navigating icy sidewalks and roads is difficult for all of us and our four-legged friends are no exception.

For Ward Six resident Sarah Hall’s four-year-old French bulldog, the ice alone isn’t the problem, it’s the chemicals used to melt it.

Hall noticed her dog acting strangely as she walked her favorite route along the near Davis Square, and realized the harsh salts used to melt the ice, were also harsh on her dog’s paws. 

“When it was really salty she would just stop walking and lift her paws up,” Hall explained. “And given that she can’t stand unless they're all on the ground, she would pull one or two up and start to hobble. She essentially would just refuse to move any farther and we'd end up having to carry her home.”

The bulldog’s sore paws led Hall to contact Ward 6 Alderwoman Rebekah Gewirtz to suggest the City investigate if using a more pet-friendly method of treating the sidewalks was an affordable option. 

Hall said she understands the necessity to keep the paving on the heavily traveled Community Path as ice-free as possible, and also the need to do so within an already tight budget.

“I really want to emphasize that I really appreciate everything that [the DPW is] doing to keep the bike path clean and the other streets and thoroughfares free of snow. But I'd love to see whether keeping the bike path clear could be done with pet friendly melt, and if it cant, that's fine. But if it can that would be great,” she said. 

Ald. Gewirtz brought the issue to last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting and requested that Dept. of Public Works Commissioner Stan Koty look into using pet-friendly melts.

“You know, when I go around door knocking in Ward 6, I’m just amazed at how many people have dogs and how protective people are of their dogs. So I'd like to see us move forward on this if possible,” Gewirtz said at the meeting.

Since the Board met, the DPW has researched alternative ice melts. Gewirtz explained in an e-mail that they’ve found pet-friendly melts cost $1,500 a ton, as opposed to the $44 spent on the normal formula. 

“I'd like to see where we can also use sand as opposed to salt since it's my understanding sand is better for the environment and pet paws,” said Gewirtz. “It's not a simple solution though, since we also want to make sure the ice is melting so as not to cause a public safety hazard.”

Gewirtz said she’s contacted Hall and the Somerville Dog Owners Group with the findings and is open to looking into suggestions about other alternatives. She intends to continue to pursue solutions to the problem. 

“As much as we can, as a City, I think we need to work to make the lives of our residents better and easier, and one simple way of doing this is to ensure accessibility of our public spaces to many different users including those with pets,” she said. 

Karen Miller February 03, 2011 at 04:16 PM
I'm all for environmentally sound methods, but wow! Given how much we as a group are spending for snow removal, I can understand passing this up. I hope pet owners consider the one time cost of getting slippers for their dogs to walk safely out there!

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