2014-12-19 / Front Page

New animal control rules proposed

Overhaul of 38-year-old ordinance could give dogs more time on public beaches
By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — The dog days of summer will have a new meaning if a group of Kennebunkport residents get their way.

At the Dec. 11 meeting of the board of selectmen, Barbara Barwise presented the first draft of a proposed animal control ordinance. If adopted at referendum in June, it would replace the current dog ordinance, on the books since 1976, by adding additional restrictions.

“It’s kind of a compromise,” said board Chairman Allen Daggett on Monday. “Some of the people don’t want dogs on the beach at all because of the plovers and some people are afraid of dogs, as far as being off the leash. This will relax things in some places, but also be a little more constraining in others.”

The current rules ban all canines other than “seeing-eye dogs” from all beaches in Kennebunkport between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., from June 15 through Sept. 15. It also makes it illegal for dogs to run unleashed at any time in the Village Residential, Village Riverfront, Village Dock Square, Cape Arundel, Goose Rocks and Cape Porpoise zones.

Violations are punishable by a $25 fine for each offence.

“I’ve been adversely affected by the nowenforcement of our current ordinance,” said Barwise. “So, after many months of whining, I attempted to try and do something about it.”

Barwise’s proposal, lifted from a leash law passed earlier this year in Scarborough, extends the beach ban on dogs from April 1 to Sept. 30. However, it specifically states that dogs can run off leash on most beaches from one half-hour before sunrise until 8 a.m., if “under voice and sight control.” It also says dogs can be on beaches after 6 p.m. on leashes no longer than 15 feet.

The draft proposal also says dogs must be leashed any time ordered by law enforcement and must be kept 150 feet back from areas roped off to protect nesting shore birds.

The plight of the endangered piping plover was at the root of the recent update to Scarborough’s animal control ordinance. In 2013, a dog mauled to death a plover chick on Pine Point Beach. That led to a $12,000 fine assessed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was later knocked down to $500 in exchange for a host of concessions, including passage of a more restrictive leash law.

The debate over just how strong that leash law should be turned into “one of the most divisive issues this town has ever seen,” according to Katie Foley, spokesman for Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough.

Beach access for dogs at Willard Beach also was a flashpoint issue for South Portland in 2009.

The Barwise draft also does away with bans in specific zones, instead casting a town-wide net that makes it illegal for dogs to be off leash anywhere, unless under voice and sight control, or being used for hunting. Dogs found at large can be impounded, according the proposal, which also compels dog owners to collect and dispose of their animal’s waste.

“This is a work in progress,” said Daggett. “This isn’t anything that’s cast in stone.”

The ordinance is slated to go before selectmen at their Jan. 22 meeting, by which time the board hopes to have comments in hand from the town’s Beach Advisory Committee.

That committee is expected to weigh in on how the dog proposal should apply to Goose Rocks, which remains the topic of a protracted legal battle over public access.

“I don’t think that the overlay of anything that’s going to affect Goose Rocks should necessarily be imposed on Colony Beach, and certainly Cleaves, or the many smaller beaches,” said Barwise. It could be difficult for the town to enforce restrictions on Colony Beach given that some of it rests in private hands, she said.

Town Manager Laurie Smith said integrating special Goose Rocks restrictions would require getting the Beach Advisory Committee to kick in its advice before public hearings on the issue are scheduled.

According to Daggett, the proposed ordinance will have to be fully hammered out by April in order to make the town meeting warrant in June. Between now and then, there could be some significant public debate, he said.

“After nearly 40 years it is time to look at this and redo it, but with that being said, there are a few unhappy people at the beach about the dogs,” said Daggett. “But there are a lot of people who love the dogs and they all want to be on the beach with the dogs.”

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