SCARBOROUGH — Angry dog owners pushed the Town Council on Wednesday to reconsider its latest effort to stiffen leash laws after a canine killed a federally protected piping plover last summer on Pine Point Beach.
Before the council met, about 20 dog owners lined Route 1 in front of Town Hall, carrying signs that reminded of the referendum last December when 73 percent of voters rejected the council’s previous effort. Soon after the referendum, the council established a committee to advise town officials on how to amend animal control ordinances to protect piping plovers.
“The day after the vote, they were back at it, trying to overturn what the voters decided,” said Maureen Burns, one of the protesters. “We have a perfectly good ordinance in place. Let’s enforce it.”
During the meeting, dog owners said the current proposal to establish “protected areas” on Higgins, Ferry, Western and Pine Point beaches is complicated, convoluted and stacked against dog owners. They also said it would be impossible to follow, let alone enforce, and likely would result in another citizen-initiated referendum.
The council delayed voting on two related resolutions until May 7, when the council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance changes, because several members said the issue warrants further review.
“It will give us an opportunity to get this right,” said Councilor William Donovan.
The council scheduled an April 16 public hearing on the ordinance changes.
With a vote of 2,880 to 1,059, the Dec. 3 referendum left in place the town’s existing restrictions, which ban dogs from beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June 15 through Sept. 15. During the same period, unleashed dogs are allowed on beaches from sunrise to 9 a.m. Only leashed dogs are allowed on beaches from 5 p.m. to sunrise.
Under the proposed changes, from April 1 through Labor Day, dog activity would be restricted in designated protected areas that would be outlined in one of the resolutions. Within protected areas, dogs would be either prohibited or required to be leashed when plovers are present, depending on the beach. The boundaries of protected areas would be adjusted daily by a town plover coordinator as the birds moved around the beach.
Varying degrees of leashed and off-leash activity would be allowed in unprotected areas as outlined in the proposed ordinance.
Dogs would be banned from May 15 to Labor Day on all beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From the day after Labor Day until May 14, dogs would have to be leashed on beaches from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A second resolution would establish a canine education and enforcement ad hoc committee.
The issue of further restricting dogs on beaches has divided the town for months.
The council voted 4-3 in October to approve a settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after an unleashed dog killed a piping plover chick in July.
The settlement saved the town from paying a $12,000 fine. 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 a year-round community leash law, which would have allowed dogs to run unleashed only in designated public areas, such as dog parks. The town has no dog parks and many people rely on beaches for recreation with their pets.
Kelley Bouchard can be reached at 791-6328 or at: