SCARBOROUGH — Town officials will delay enforcement of a new, sweeping dog-leash ordinance, now that a resident has begun circulating a petition calling for a referendum on the law, the town manager said Friday.
The ordinance, which was approved by the Town Council on Wednesday and took effect on Thursday, requires dogs to be leashed on all public streets, sidewalks, parks, beaches and other public areas, year-round.
The ordinance that the council replaced – which will continue to be enforced for the time being – allowed unleashed dogs almost everywhere throughout the year, as long as their owners had them under voice control. The only real restrictions applied at beaches, where unleashed dogs had limited access from June 15 through Sept. 15.
Katy Foley of Lucky Lane filed a petition with the town clerk Thursday with the hope of forcing a referendum on the new law. She must submit at least 2,379 valid voters’ signatures – 25 percent of the Scarborough voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election – by Oct. 22, said Town Manager Tom Hall. A referendum would be held in early December.
In the meantime, town officials have decided to avoid confusion and delay enforcement of the new law, although the town charter says it takes effect immediately.
“The new ordinance has taken effect, but we have decided to use our discretion and not enforce it until the petition process has run its course,” Hall said.
Under the previous ordinance, dogs were banned from beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June 15 through Sept. 15. During the same period, unleashed dogs were allowed on beaches from sunrise to 9 a.m. Only leashed dogs were allowed on beaches from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m.
The council voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve a settlement with the federal government in a case in which an unleashed dog killed a federally protected piping plover chick on Pine Point Beach in July.
The settlement saved the town from paying a $12,000 fine to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Instead, the town must pay a $500 fine and create a position for piping plover coordinator.
After approving the settlement, the council went a step further and voted 5-2 to approve the year-round leash law, a proposal that some councilors made this week, Hall said.
Under the new law, dogs would be allowed to run unleashed only in designated public areas, such as dog parks. However, the town has no dog parks, and many people rely on beaches for recreation with their pets.
William Daisley, a dog owner who lives near Higgins Beach, was surprised by the council’s action. He said the new ordinance is too restrictive and reactionary.
“It also wasn’t well thought-out or publicized,” said Daisley, who walks his dog, Angel, on the beach every morning.
Daisley said he plans to support the petition drive and vote against the law if it goes to the polls.
Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:[email protected]: @KelleyBouchard
CORRECTION: This story was updated on Tuesday, Oct. 8, to correct the effective dates of the previous leash ordinance.