South Portland council passes dog rule amendment

The dogs and their owners head to Willard Beach in South Portland shortly after 3 p.m., when the dogs don’t need to be leashed. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — After months of public debate, the South Portland City Council has passed an amendment to the city’s dog laws.

The council voted on amending Chapter 3, “Animals and Poultry”, and Chapter 18, “Parks and Recreation”, regarding dogs and open spaces. Council amended and passed first reading on May 3 and May 17. The motion passed after a lengthy community discussion in which many South Portland residents expressed concerns about when dogs were allowed at Willard Beach. Residents spoke about their issues with the city’s new dog laws.

The modification includes about 20 additions and adjustments. They allow dogs on the beach from 7am to 9am and 7pm to 9pm. The rules apply from May 1 to September 30. However, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., dogs must be kept on a leash.

Dogs will be allowed at Willard Beach all day from October 1 through April 30, but must be leashed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dogs at Hinckley Park must be leashed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. year-round.

Dogs are also prohibited on sports fields and fenced playgrounds. Owners are required to properly pick up and dispose of their dog’s feces and prohibit dogs and owners from crossing the city sand dunes. They require that a dog that acts aggressively towards people or other dogs and does not consistently come when commanded must be kept on a leash when not on private premises.

If an owner or guardian has three or more dogs, at least one dog must be on a leash. If they have four or more dogs, all must be leashed, and for areas where dogs are allowed off-leash, dogs must always be under voice and sight control and within 50 feet of their owner or custodian.

“I am very disappointed that we have to continually revisit this issue which is essentially not an issue,” said resident Cynthia Rubinoff-Myers. “Allowing our family members, our dogs to play freely on our only beach is not a big problem. I really don’t understand why this has become such a big deal, and it’s only recently, and I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I’m so frustrated with how this has become such a big deal .

Myers wasn’t the only resident to have a problem with the new dog rules. Many women expressed issues with the weather and said that as a woman they didn’t feel comfortable alone on the beach from 8-9pm because it got dark around 8:30pm.

“Walking Willard is another vital part of my life for my dog ​​and for myself, making us both happy and healthier beings in this crazy world we now live in,” resident Lisa Badger said. “The limitation of summer evening hours for off-leash walking only between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. bothers me. It is then almost dark and some evenings are cold. Work keeps me from walking in the mornings and some evenings are mostly my only option. I usually walk my dog ​​off leash on Willard between 7-8:15pm, once Willard starts to get dark I want to be off the beach for my safety. I had an incident at another land preservation area last fall when it was getting dark, which forced me to change my behavior as darkness descends while walking my dog. ”

The committee considered several measures such as restricting off-leash dogs to a particular section of the beach, requiring parking stickers, and requiring dog owners to obtain a beach pass. Leash time for Willard Beach was the only item council could not agree on through the Citizen Advisory Committee on Dogs and Sharing Public Spaces.

“I think there are a lot of people in our town who love Willard Beach and don’t go there anymore for all kinds of reasons,” Linda Cohen said. “I see so many people walking their dogs all over the city of South Portland, and I don’t think those dogs are unhealthy just because they can’t go to the beach.

“These people find a way to exercise their dogs, take care of their needs while spending quality time with their dogs. It’s not that easy to hire city workers these days, whether it’s rangers or code enforcement officers, they just don’t exist. perfect. Unfortunately, this may come back to us in the future, but I think this is the best we can do after weeks of discussing and working on this. I’m sorry for those who are unhappy; I know that ‘they are unhappy on all sides of the issue.

The council has held three previous meetings regarding the debate between beachgoers and dog owners. On May 17, the council held a second reading and amended the ordinance to require dogs in Willard Beach to be leashed from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer months of May 1 through September 30. This substantive amendment required further reading. At the May 3 meeting, council considered the first reading of this ordinance. He also amended it to include a provision prohibiting off-leash dogs from hunting wildlife while correcting some grammatical errors.

For more information on the new dog rules for Willard Beach and Hinckley Pond, visit www.southportland.org/.

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