2017-12-08 / Community

Board: Status quo for pooches on Gooch’s

By Wm Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Kennebunk’s board of selectmen decided they would not make any changes to the ordinance regarding dogs on public beaches. (File photo) Kennebunk’s board of selectmen decided they would not make any changes to the ordinance regarding dogs on public beaches. (File photo) KENNEBUNK — Nearly a year after a need for change was first suggested, Kennebunk selectmen have decided to maintain the status quo, voting unanimously Nov. 29 to pursue no change in town rules governing the presence of dogs on public beaches.

From June 15 until Labor Day each year, dogs may be on Kennebunk beaches only before 9 a.m., or after 5 p.m. and, even then, are required to be under constant “voice control” if not on a leash. But late last winter, one resident raised a ruckus by suggesting the beaches had become unruly, overrun, and in need of greater restrictions.

That resulted in a May meeting of the town’s dog advisory committee, attended by nearly 150 residents, nearly all of whom argued against extending the summer dog ban. Still, the committee continued to look at the appropriateness of the current rules in light of frequent complaints about dog behavior and waste impeding the enjoyment of non-dog owners when visiting the town’s seaside public assets.

The result was a unanimous vote Oct. 25 to recommend no changes.

“We looked at what went on and we said, you know, things are pretty good,” committee chairman Stuart Flavin reported to selectmen. “We felt that a lot of other changes that went on this year made things a lot better.”

“Our unanimous decision was that, basically, the dogs on the beach have worked out pretty well, and when there have been issues, or difficulties, or complaints, it’s been a case, really, of failure to adhere to the ordinance as it exists,” committee vice chairman Alice Ferran agreed. “The existing ordinance is fine, we just need to enforce it.”

According to both Flavin and Ferran, a significant reason why town ordinances do not need to change is because other changes were put into effect.

The number of volunteer monitors tasked with gently reminding dog walkers of the rules burgeoned from about 10 at most in 2016, to more than 40 this past year. Those monitors also were put in bright orange vests, making them more visible.

Police also provided monitors with greater training and support, Ferran said, while the Flavin added committee members took a more active part in stocking dispensers from which dog walkers could obtain plastic bags to scoop and remove dog waste, sharing amongst themselves what Flavin said had previously been the job of a single person.

Flavin also credited grass-roots activist group Keep the Pooches on Gooch’s, which rose up in the wake of requests for restrictions up to and including a full-on, year-round dog ban and quickly grew to a Facebook group with more than 800 members.

“We had a lot of volunteers this year,” said Flavin, who acknowledged a few isolated incidents of conflict between dog owners and beach monitors, as well as five recorded dog bites during the season.

Still, selectmen said the improvement was self-evident.

“From a dad who has a couple of younger kids, who has had a problem down there with dogs, charging my children and so forth, it did go better this year than I have seen it in past years, I will say that,” Selectman Shiloh Schulte said.

Selectman Ed Karytko, meanwhile, added that further restrictions would likely mean little to the few scofflaws determined not to obey the time limits, or clean up after their animals.

“You can’t legislate morality,” he said.

Staff Writer Wm. Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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