The South Portland city councilors recently voted 4-3 to suspend the rights of dog owners’ access to Willard Beach between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. for three months.

Originally it was proposed by this same group of councilors to assign a task force to review the issue of citizen dog owners of South Portland to have access to the beach during these hours. In talking with one of the councilors about the sudden change in their position, the councilor indicated the task force would take too long for a fact-finding mission and they just decided to suspend the dog owner’s rights to be with their dogs unleashed on the beach from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. until the task force had the time to review and gather the facts. Now, I find it a bit illogical that the task force will be able to review or gather any facts since there will be no dogs on the beach between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

This kind of boneheaded thinking flies in the face of any democratic process. The city councilors need to rethink this situation. It is simply unfair to propose one solution, then to act unilaterally without unbiased information regarding the pros and cons of persons on the beach with their dogs.

I personally am most distressed about this situation, not because I own a dog, but because I am a family physician and many of my patients walk their dogs on the beach in the morning prior to going to work. We as a state and as a nation have a health disaster on our hands and it is called obesity, which leads to heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other problems. Eliminating one more avenue of exercise for the people of Maine is not a good choice nor a healthy choice. And I am not comforted by the fact that the beach is open to the dog owners between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when people have to come home to fix dinner, pick up the kids or do a zillion other chores.

I often take walks on Williard Beach in the morning before I go to work and find the atmosphere to be a most pleasant experience. Many people are walking or jogging with their dogs, many people are stopping to say hello to a neighbor and many people are exercising and losing weight. I have yet to experience or witness an unkind incident or action by human or dog.

And as far as refuse is concerned, I have yet to spot a porta potty for the marine mammals. But that will be one of the facts for the task force to explore and, given the current state of affairs, this should bode well for the dog owners since there will be no dogs on the beach while the task force is exploring the refuse issue.

Gwendolyn L. O’Guin

South Portland

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