I recently moved to Portland and was thrilled to find Willard Beach, a wonderful place for my 10-month-old son and my dog, Sydney. I was surprised to learn of the bitter conflict regarding dogs, especially when dogs only have access for four hours each day.

My wife and I are physicians, and nothing is more important than the health and safety of our son. He has been around Sydney his whole life and they have shared hugs, kisses, toys and even food. Out of concern for him, I have done research concerning zoonotic illness – in other words, can people get diseases from dogs? Although possible, the risk is minimal and virtually nonexistent if dog owners clean up after their pets. And they do. Just today, I witnessed dog owners clearing trash from Willard Beach in addition to cleaning up after their pets.

I believe that access to Willard Beach should be available to everyone. I was saddened to hear about the referendum this November that may ban dogs. If my son pees in the water while swimming, would you also ban children? The voters should realize that dogs are family and if you ban dogs, you are banning families. It is misguided if a small, vocal minority feels that they have more rights than families just because they are wealthy enough to live on the beach.

I encourage your South Portland readers to vote no this November so we can all continue to share the waterfront.

Dr. Rahul Banerjee