SCARBOROUGH – The Scarborough Town Council will decide this month whether to ban unleashed dogs from the town’s beaches during the spring and summer.
At a meeting on Sept. 18, the council will also hold a public hearing, which had been scheduled for Wednesday but postponed because the town hadn’t properly posted public notice for it.
Still, about 30 people showed up Wednesday for discussion of the proposal to prohibit unleashed dogs on town beaches from April 1 to mid-September.
The existing ordinance allows dogs without leashes from sunrise to 9 a.m., from July 1 to Sept. 15. They are banned during the day and allowed on leashes after 5 p.m. during this period.
They are allowed without leashes at all times during the rest of the year.
The proposal to change the ordinance was prompted by an incident on July 15, when an unleashed dog killed a piping plover chick on Pine Point Beach. A dog is believed to have killed a plover on the same beach in 2003.
The latest incident triggered a federal investigation into whether the town violated the Endangered Species Act by not properly protecting the birds.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recorded 47 pairs of piping plovers this year in Maine. The chick killed in July was from one of four eggs seen on Pine Point Beach last spring, according to the Maine Audubon Society. The others did not hatch.
Dog owners said Wednesday they didn’t know the details of the incident, but believe it was an accident that happens so rarely it doesn’t justify the proposed change.
Mark McCollough, an endangered species biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s field office in Orono, said, “every plover counts to us” because there are so few of them in Maine.
“Every one contributes to recovery,” he said at the council meeting Wednesday.
At Pine Point Beach on Wednesday evening, a handful of dogs walked along the sand and in the water — some on leashes and some not.
Jura Avizienis of Portland, who takes her dog Roam there a few times a week, said there were a lot more dogs at the beach, most unleashed, until a couple of weeks ago.
“It happened almost overnight,” she said.
Jill Williams didn’t bring her 9-year-old springer spaniel Farley to the beach Wednesday, but usually does and lets the dog, which has arthritis, stay by her side without a leash. Williams, who lives in Scarborough, said she thought it was allowed after 5 p.m.
“I think it would be quite upsetting” if a ban was enacted, she said. And if it’s not enforced, she said, “I think you’re going to get a lot of people who are still going to do it.”
Peter Hayes of Scarborough had his golden retriever Charlie on a leash Wednesday evening. He lets the 10-month old dog, who loves water, run free on Ferry Beach in the morning.
Hayes suggested the town figure out where the plovers are nesting at the beginning of the season, then close off those beaches to unleashed dogs and leave the others open.
“I’d love to find a way that everybody could enjoy the beach and protect the birds,” he said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at